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Translated  into  English   Rhyming  Verse,   with   Commentariei 
and  Explanatory  Notes 

By  GILBERT  MURRAY,  LL.D.,  D.Litt. 
Regius  Professor  of  Greek  in  the  University  of  Oxford. 

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ANDROMACHE  :  A  Play  in  Three  Acts 

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Printfd  in  Great  Ett'.am  ho 


If  I  have  turned  aside  from  Euripides  for  a  moment 
and  attempted  a  translation  of  the  great  stage  master- 
piece of  Sophocles,  my  excuse  must  be  the  fascination 
of  this  play,  which  has  thrown  its  spell  on  me  as  on 
many  other  translators.  Yet  I  may  plead  also  that 
as  a  rule  every  diligent  student  of  these  great  works 
can  add  something  to  the  discoveries  of  his  prede- 
cessors, and  I  think  I  have  been  able  to  bring  out 
a  few  new  points  in  the  old  and  much-studied 
OejiipuSy  chiefly  points  connected  with  the  dramatic 
technic[ue  and  the  relijgiousatmosphere. 

Mythologists  tell  us  that  Oedipus  was  originally 
a  daemon  haunting  Mount  Kithairon,  and  Jocasta  a 
form  of  that  Earth-Mother  who,  as  Aeschylus  puts 
it,  "  bringeth  all  things  to  being,  and  when  she  hath 
reared  them  receiveth  again  their  seed  into  her  body  " 
{Choephoriy  127  :  cf.  Crusius,  Beitrage  z.  Gr.  Myth^ 
21).  That  stage  of  the  story  lies  very  far  behind 
the  consciousness  of  Sophocles.  But  there  does  cling 
about  both  his  hero  and  his  heroine  a  great  deal  of 
very  primitive  atmos2here.  There  are  traces  in 
Oedipus  of  the  pre-hellenic  Medicine  King,  the 
Basileus  who  is  also  a  TheoSy  and  can  make  rain  or 
blue  sky,  pestilence  or  fertility.  This  explains  many 
things  in  the  Priest's  first  speech,  in  the  attitude 
of  the  Chorus,  and  in  Oedipus'  own  language  after 


the   discovery.      It    partly    explains   the    hostility  of 
Apollo,  who  is  not  a  mere  motiveless  Destroyer  but  a 

tnjg   Olympian    rrii«;hing    his   Earth-hnrn    rival.       And 

in    the   same  .way  the    peculiar   royalty   of  -Jocasta, 
which  makes  Oedipus  at  times  seem  not  the  King 

1  but  the  Consort  of  the  Queen,  brings  her  near  to 
that  class  of  consecrated  queens  described  in  Dr. 
Frazer's  Lectures  on  the  Kingships  who  are  "  honoured 
as  no  woman  now  liyjng^n^thejearth." 

The  story  itself,  and  the  whole  spirit  in  which 
Sophocles  has  treated  it,  belong  not  to  the  fifth  cen- 
tury but  to  that  terrible  and  romantic  past  from 
which  the  fifth  century  poets  usually  drew  their 
material.     The    atmosphere    of   brooding^  dr^d,  the 

I  pollution,    the    curses ;    the    "  insane    and    beastlike 

I  cruelty,"  as  an  ancient  Greek  commentator  calls  it, 
of  piercing  the  exposed  child's  feet  in  order  to  ensure 
its  death  and  yet  avoid  having  actually  murdered  it 
{Schol.  Eur.  Phoen.j  26)  ;  the  whole  treatment  of  the 
/parricide  and  incest,  not  as  moral  offences  capable  of 
j  being  rationally  judged  or  even  excused  as  uninten- 
tional, but  as  monstrous  and  inhuman  pollutions,  the 

Mast  limit  of  imaginable  horror  :  all  these  things  take 
us  back  to  dark  regions  of  pre-classical  and  even  pre- 
homeric  belief.  We  have  no  right  to  suppose  that 
Sophocles  thought  of  the  involuntary  parricide  and 
metrogamy  as  the  people  in  his  play  do.  Indeed,  con- 
sidering the  general  tone  of  his  contemporaries  and 
friends,  we  may  safely  assume  that  he  did  not.  But 
at  any  rate  he  has  allowed  no  breath  of  later  en- 
lightenment to  disturb  the  primaeval  gloom  of  his 

Does  this  in  any  way  make  the  tragedy  insincere  ? 


I  think  not.  We  know  that  people  did  feel  and 
think  about  "  pollution  "  in  the  way  which  Sophocles 
represents ;  and  if  they  so  felt,  then  the  tragedy  was 

I  think  these  considerations  explain  the  remarkable 
absence  from  this  play  of  any  criticism  of  life  or 
iuiy  definite  moral  judgment.  I  know  that  some 
commentators  have  found  in  it  a  ''humble  and  un- 
questioning piety,"  but  I  cannot  help  suspecting  that 
what  they  saw  was  only  a  reflection  from  their  own 
pious  and  unquestioning  minds.  Man  is  indeed 
shown  as  a  "  glaything  of  Gods,"  but  of  Gods  strangely 
and  incomprehensibly  malignant,  whose  ways  there 
is  no  attempt  to  explain  or  justify.  The  original 
story,  indeed,  may  have  had  one  of  its  roots  in  a 
Theban  "  moral  tale."  Aelian  {Var'ta  Hhtoricy  2,  7) 
tells  us  that  the  exposure  of  a  child  was  forbidden  by 
Theban  Law.  The  state  of  feeling  which  produced 
this  law,  against  the  immensely  strong  conception 
of  the  patria  poteitas,  may  also  have  produced  a  folk- 
lore story  telling  how  a  boy  once  was  exposed,  in 
a  peculiarly  cruel  way,  by  his  wicked  parents,  and 
how  Heaven  preserved  him  to  take  upon  both  of 
them  a  vengeance  which  showed  that  the  unnatural 
father  had  no  longer  a  father's  sanctity  nor  the  un- 
natural mother  a  mother's.  But,  as  far  as  Sophocles 
is  concerned,  if  anything  in  the  nature  of  a  criticism 
of  life  has  been  admitted  into  the  play  at  all,  it 
seems  to  be  only  a  flash  or  two  of  that  profound  and 
pessimistic  arraignment  of  the  ruling  powers  which 
in  other  plays  also  opens  at  times  like  a  sudden  abyss 
across  the  smooth  sur^ce  of  his  art. 


There  is  not  much  philosophy  in  the  Oedipus. 
There  is  not,  in  comparison  with  other  Greek  plays, 
much  pure  poetry.  What  there  is,  is  drama  ;  drama 
of  amazing  grandeur  and  power.  In  respect  of  plot 
no  Greek  play  comes  near  it.  It  contains  no  doubt 
a  few  points  of  unsophisticated  technique  such  as 
can  be  found  in  all  ancient  and  nearly  all  modern 
drama ;  for  instance,  the  supposition  that  Oedipus 
has  never  inquired  into  the  death  of  his  predecessor 
on  the  throne.  But  such  flaws  are  external,  not 
essential.  On  the  whole,  I  can  only  say  that  the 
work  of  translation  has  made  me  feel  even  more 
strongly  than  before  the  extraordinary  grip  and 
realityof  the  dialogue,  the_deftness  of  the  construc- 
tion^ and,  except  perhaps  for  a  slight  drop  in  the  Creon 
scene,  the  unbroken  crescendo  of  tragedy  from  the 
opening  to  the  close. 

Where  plot-interest  is  as  strong  as  it  is  in  the 
OedipuSy  character-interest  is  apt  to  be  comparatively 
weak.  Yet  in  this  play  everycharacter  is  interesting, 
vital,  and  distinct.  Oedipus  himself  is  selected  by 
Aristotle  as  the  most  effective  kind  of  tragic  hero, 
because,  first,  he  has  been  great  and  glorious,  and 
secondly  he  has  not  been  "  pre-eminently  virtuous 
or  just."  This  is  true  in  its  way.  Oedipus  is  too 
passionate  to  be  just ;  but  he  is  at  least  noble  in  his 
impetuosity,  his  devotion,  and  his  absolute  truthful- 
ness. It  is  important  to  realise  that  at  the  beginning 
of  the  play  he  is  prepared  for  an  oracle  commanding 
him  to  die  for  his  people  (pp.  6,  7).  And  he  never 
thinks  of  refusing  that  "  task  "  any  more  than  he  tries 
to  elude  the  doom  that  actually  comes,  or  to  conceal 


any  fact  that  tells  against  him.  If  Oedipus  had  been 
an  ordinary  man  the  play  would  have  been  a  very 
diflferent  and  a  much  jX)orer  thing. 

Jocasta_is  a  wonderful  study.  Euripides  might 
have  brought  her  character  out  more  explicitly  and 
more  at  length,  but  even  he  could  not  have  made  her 
more  living  or  more  tragic,  or  represented  more  subtly 
in  her  relation  to  Oedipus  both  the  mother's  protect- 
ing  love  and  the  motjier's  authority.  As  for  her 
"impiety,"  of  which  the  old  commentaries  used  to 
speak  with  much  disapproval,  the  essential  fact  in  her 
life  is  that  both  her  innocence  and  her  happiness  have, 
as  she  believes,  been  poisoned  by  the  craft  of  priests. 
She  and  Lalus  both  "  believed  a  bad  oracle "  :  her 
terror  and  her  love  for  her  husband  made  her  consent 
to  an  infamous  act  of  cruelty  to  her  own  child,  an  act 
of  which  the  thought  sickens  her  still,  and  about 
which  she  cannot,  when  she  tries,  speak  the  whole 
truth.  (See  note  on  p.  42.)  And  after  all  her  crime 
was  for  nothing  1  The  oracle  proved  to  be  a  lie. 
Never  again  will  she  believe  a  priest. 

As  to  Tiresias,  I  wish  to  ask  forgiveness  for  an  un- 
intelligent criticism  made  twelve  years  ago  in  my 
Ancient  Greek  Literature^  p.  240.  I  assimied  then, 
what  I  fancy  was  a  common  assumption,  that  Tiresias 
was  a  "  sympathetic "  prophet,  compact  of  wisdom 
and  sanctity  and  all  the  qualities  which  beseem  that 
calling  ;  and  I  complained  that  he  did  not  consistently 
act  as  such.  I  was  quite  wrong.  Tiresias  is  not  any- 
thing so  insipid.  He  is  a  study  of  a  real  type,  and  a 
type  which  all  the  tragedians  knew.  The  character 
of  the  professional  seer  or  "  man  of  God  "  has  in  the 
imagination  of  most  ages  fluctuated  between  two 


poles.  At  one  extreme  are  sanctity  and  superhuman 
wisdom  ;  at  the  other  fraud  and  mental  disease,  self- 
worship  aping  humility  and  personal  malignity  in  the 
guise  of  obedience  to  God.  There  is  a  touch  of  all 
these  qualities,  good  and  bad  alike,  in  Tiresias.  He 
seems  to  me  a  most  life-like  as  well  as  a  most  dra- 
matic figure. 

As  to  the  Chorus,  it  generally  plays  a  smaller  part 
in  Sophocles  than  in  Euripides  and  Aeschylus,  and 
the  Oedipus  forms  no  exception  to  that  rule.  It  seems 
to  me  that  Sophocles  was  feeling  his  way  towards  a 
technique  which  would  have  approached  that  of  the 
New  Comedy  or  even  the  Elizabethan  stage,  and 
would  perhaps  have  done  without  a  Chorus  altogether. 
In  Aeschylus  Greek  tragedy  had  been  a  thing  of 
traditional  forms  and  clear-cut  divisions  ;  the  religious 
ritual  showed  through,  and  the  visible  gods  and  the 
disguised  dancers  were  allowed  their  full  value.  And 
Euripides  in  the  matter  of  outward  formalism  went 
back  to  the  Aeschylean  type  and  even  beyond  it : 
prologue,  chorus,  messenger,  visible  god,  all  the  tradi- 
tional forms  were  left  clear-cut  and  undisguised  and 
all  developed  to  full  effectiveness  on  separate  and 
specific  lines,  c  But  Sophocles  worked  by  blurring  his 
structural  outlines  just  as  he  blurs  the  ends  of  his 
verses.  In  him  the  tfaditional  divisions  are  all  made 
.^  less  distinct,  all  worked  over  in  the  direction  of 
^^  >  great er_naturaln ess,  at  any  rate  in  externals.  This 
was  a  very  great  gain,  but  of  course  some  price  had  to 
be  paid  for  it.  Part  of  the  price  was  that  Sophocles 
could  never  attempt  the  tremendous  choric  effects 
which  Euripides  achieves  in  such  plays  as  the  Bacchat 
and   the    Trojan    Women.     His  lyrics,  great  as  they 



sometimes  are,  move  their  wings  less  boldly.  They 
seem  somehow  tied  to  their  particular  place  in  the 
tragedy,  and  they  have  not  quite  the  strength  to  lift 
the  whole  drama  bodily  aloft  with  them.  ...  At 
least  that  is  my  feeling^But  I  realise  that  this  may 
be  only  the  complaiift  of  an  unskilful  translator,  blam- 
ing his  material  for  his  own  defects  of  vision. 

In  general,  both  in  Jyrics  and  in  dialogue^  I  believe 
I  have  allowed  myself  rather  less  freedom  than  in 
translating  Euripides.  This  is  partly  because  the 
writing  of  Eurrgides,  being  less  business-like  and 
more  penetrated  by  philosophic  reflections  and  by 
subtleties  of  technique,  actually  needs  more  thorough 
re-casting  to  express  it  at  all  adequately ;  partly  be- 
cause there  is  in  Sophocles,  amid  all  his  passion  and 
all  his  naturalness,  a  certain  severe  and  classic  reticence, 
which,  though  impossible  really  to  reproduce  by  any 
method,  is  less  misrepresented  by  occasional  insuf- 
ficiency than  by  habitual  redundance. 

I  have  asked  pardon  for  an  ill  deed  done  twelve 
years  ago.  I  should  like  to  end  by  speaking  of  a 
benefit  older  still,  and  express  something  of  the  grati- 
tude I  feel  to  my  old  master,  Francis  Storr,  whose 
teaching  is  still  vivid  in  my  mind  and  who  first  opened 
my  eyes  to  the  grandeur  of  the  Oedipus. 

G.  M. 


Okdipus,  supposed  son  of  Polybus^  King  of  Corinth  ;  note  elected 

King  of  TTubes. 
JOCASTA,  Queen  of  Thebes ;  widow  of  Lotus,  the  late  King,  and 

now  wife  to  Oedipus. 
Crbon,  a  Prince  of  Thebes,  brother  tojocasta, 
TiKBSiAS,  an  old  blind  seer, 
PilEST  OF  Zsus. 
A  STRANGER/r(7»»  Corinti^ 
A  Shbphbrd  of  King  La'ius. 
A  Messenger  ^<M»  the  Palace. 

Chorus  of  the  Elders  of  Thebes. 

A  Crowd  of  Suppliants,  men,  women,  and  children. 

The  following  do  not  appear  in   the  play  but  are  frequently 

mentioned  : — 

Laios  (pronounced  as  three  syllables,  Ld-i-us),  the  last  King  of 
Thebes  before  Oedipus. 
^  Cadmus,  the  founder  of  Thebes  ;  son  of  Aghior,  KingofSidon. 

POLYBUS  AND  MEROPfi,  King  and  Queen  of  Corinth,  supposed  to  be 
the  father  and  mother  of  Oedipus. 

Apollo,  the  God  specially  presiding  over  the  oracle  of  Delphi  and 
the  island  Delos :  he  is  also  called  Phoebus,  the  pure  ;  LoxiAS, 
supposed  to  mean  '^He  of  the  Crooked  Words"  ;  and  Lykeios, 
supposed  to  mean  "  Wolf- God."  He  is  also  the  great  Averter 
of  Evil,  and  has  names  from  the  cries  "/-^"  (pronounced 
"  Ee-ay  ")  and  "  Paian,"  cries  for  healing  or  for  the  frightening 
away  of  evil  influences. 

KiTHAiRON,  a  mass  of  wild  mountain  south-mest  of  Thebes. 

i;--  y  " . 

0'  f~      A-'  * 

.-M  t^'       C   ■/         ARGUMENT 

While  Thebes  was  under  the  rale  of  Laius  and  JOCASTA 
there  appeared  a  strange  and  monstrous  creature,  "  the 
riddhng  Sphinx,"  "  the  She- Wolf  of  the  woven  song,"  who 
in  some  unexplained  way  sang  riddles  of  death  and  slew 
the  people  of  Thebes.  LAJfus  went  to  ask  aid  of  the  oracle 
of  Delphi,  but  was  slain  mysteriously  on  the  road.  Soon 
afterwards  there  came  to  Thebes  a  young  Prince  of  Corinth, 
Oedipus,  who  had  left  his  home  and  was  wandering.  He 
faced  the  Sphinx  and  read  her  riddle,  whereupon  she  flung 
herself  from  her  rock  and  died.  The  throne  being  vacant 
was  offered  to  Oedipus,  and  with  it  the  hand  of  the  Queen, 
Joe AST A. 

Some  ten  or  twelve  years  afterwards  a  pestilence  has 
fallen  on  Thebes.     At  this  point  the  play  begins. 

The  date  of  the  first  production  of  the  play  is  not  known,  but  was 
probably  about  the  year  425  B.C. 

TT.  1-14 


Scene. — Before  the  Palace  of  Oedipus  at  Thebes.  A 
crowd  of  suppliants  of  all  ages  are  waiting  by  the 
altar  in  front  and  on  the  steps  of  the  Palace  ;  among 
them  the  Priest  of  Zeus.  As  the  Palace  door  opens 
and  Oedipus  comes  out  all  the  suppliants  with  a  cry 
move  towards  him  in  attitudes  of  prayer^  holding 
out  their  olive  brancheSy  and  then  become  still  again 
as  he  speaks.  L^^A^ 

Oedipus.  fh^/^^- 

My  children,  fruit  of  Cadmus'  ancient  tree 
New  springing,  wherefore  thus  with  bended  knee 
Press  ye  upon  us,  laden  all  with  wreaths 
And  suppliant  branches  ?     And  the  city  breathes 
Heavy  with  incense,  heavy  with  dim  prayer 
And  shrieks  to  affright  the  Slayer. — Children,  care 
For  this  so  moves  me,  I  have  scorned  withal 
Message  or  writing  :  seeing  'tis  I  ye  call, 
'Tis  I  am  come,  world-honoured  Oedipus. 

Old  Man,  do  thou  declare — the  rest  have  thus  ' 

Their  champion — in  what  mood  stand  ye  so  still, 
In  dread  or  sure  hope  ?     Know  ye  not,  my  will 
Is  yours  for  aid  'gainst  all  ?     Stern  were  indeed 
The  heart  that  felt  not  for  so  dire  a  necd.^ 


SOPHOCLES  »▼.  15-39 


O  Oedipus,  who  boldest  in  thy  hand 
My  city,  thou  canst  see  what  ages  stand 
At  these  thine  altars  ;  some  whose  little  wing 
Scarce  flieth  yet,  and  some  with  long  living 
O'erburdened  ;  priests,  as  I  of  Zeus  am  priest, 
And  chosen  youths  :  and  wailing  hath  not  ceased 
Of  thousands  in  the  market-place,  and  by 
Athena's  two-fold  temples  and  the  dry 
Ash  of  Ism^nus'  portent-breathing  shore. 

For  all  our  ship,  thou  see'st,  is  weak  and  sore 
Shaken  with  storms,  and  no  more  lighteneth 
Her  head  above  the  waves  whose  trough  is  death. 
She  wasteth  in  the  fruitless  buds  of  earth. 
In  parchW  herds  and  travail  without  birth 
Of  dying  women  :  yea,  and  midst  of  it 
A  burning  and  a  loathly  god  hath  lit 
Sudden,  and  sweeps  our  land,  this  Plague  of  power ; 
Till  Cadmus'  house  grows  empty,  hour  by  hour. 
And  Hell's  house  rich  with  steam  of  tears  and  blood. 

O  King,  not  God  indeed  nor  peer  to  God 
We  deem  thee,  that  we  kneel  before  thine  hearth. 
Children  and  old  men,  praying  ;  but  of  earth 
A  thing  consummate  by  thy  star  confessed 
Thou  walkest  and  by  converse  with  the  blest ; 
Who  came  to  Thebes  so  swift,  and  swept  away 
The  Sphinx's  song,  the  tribute  of  dismay. 
That  all  were  bowed  beneath,  and  made  us  free. 
A  stranger,  thou,  naught  knowing  more  than  we. 
Nor  taught  of  any  man,  but  by  God's  breath 
Filled,  thou  didst  raise  our  life.     So  the  world  saith  ; 
So  we  say. 



^TT.^cMJg       OEDIPUS,   KING    OF   THEBES 

Therefore  now,  O  Lord  and  Chief, 
We  come  to  thee  again  ;  we  lay  our  grief 
On  thy  head,  if  thou  find  us  not  some  aid. 
Perchance  thou  hast  heard  Gods  talking  in  the  shade 
Of  night,  or  eke  some  man  :  to  him  that  knows. 
Men  say,  each  chance  that  falls,  each  wind  that  blows 
Hath  life,  when  he  seeks  counsel.     Up,  O  chief 
Of  men,  and  lift  thy  city  from  its  grief ; 
Face  thine  own  peril !     All  our  land  doth  hold 
Thee  still  our  saviour,  for  that  help  of  old  : 
Shall  they  that  tell  of  thee  hereafter  tell 
"  By  him  was  Thebes  raised  up,  and  after  fell  1 " 
Nay,  lift  us  till  we  slip  no  more.     Oh,  let 
That  bird  of  old  that  made  us  fortunate 
Wing  back  ;  be  thou  our  Oedipus  again. 
And  let  thy  kingdom  be  a  land  of  men. 
Not  emptiness.     Walls,  towers,  and  ships,  they  all 
Arc  nothing  with  no  men  to  keep  the  wall. 


My  poor,  poor  children  I     Surely  long  ago 

I  have  read  your  trouble.     Stricken,  well  I  know. 

Ye  all  are,  stricken  sore  :  yet  verily 

Not  one  so  stricken  to  the  heart  as  I. 

Your  grief,  it  cometh  to  each  man  apart 

For  his  own  loss,  none  other's ;  but  this  heart 

For  thee  and  me  and  all  of  us  doth  weep. 

Wherefore  it  is  not  to  one  sunk  in  sleep 

Ye  come  with  waking.     Many  tears  these  days 

For  your  sake  I  have  wept,  and  many  ways 

Have  wandered  on  the  beating  wings  of  thought. 

And,  finding  but  one  hope,  that  I  have  sought 

P\  SOPHOCLES  yv.  70-86 

And  followed.     I  have  sent  Menoikeus'  son, 
Creon,  my  own  wife's  brother,  forth  alone 
To  Apollo's  House  in  Delphi,  there  to  ask 
What  word,  what  deed  of  mine,  what  bitter  task, 
May  save  my  city. 

And  the  lapse  of  days 
Reckoned,  I  can  but  marvel  what  delays 
His  journey.     'Tis  beyond  all  thought  that  thus 
He  comes  not,  beyond  need.     But  when  he  does. 
Then  call  me  false  and  traitor,  if  I  flee 
Back  from  whatever  task  God  sheweth  me. 


I    I  At  point  of  time  thou  speakest.     Mark  the  cheer 
(^'^^      i  Yonder,     Is  that  not  Creon  drawing  near  ? 

[They  all  crowd  to  gaze  where  Creon  is 
approaching  in  the  distance. 


O  Lord  Apollo,  help  !     And  be  the  star 
That  guides  him  joyous  as  his  seemings  are  ! 


Oh  !  surely  joyous  !     How  else  should  he  bear 
That  fruited  laurel  wreathed  about  his  hair  ? 


We  soon  shall  know. — *Tis  not  too  far  for  one 

{Shouting)     Ho,  brother  I    Prince !    Menoikeus*  son, 
What  message  from  the  God  ? 

VT.  87-99       OEDIPUS,    KING   OF   THEBES 

Creon  {Jrom  a  distance). 

Message  of  joy  I 

Enter  Creon 

I  tell  thee,  what  is  now  our  worst  annoy, 
If  the  right  deed  be  done,  shall  turn  to  good. 

[The  crowdy   which   has  been  full  of  excited 
hope,  falls  to  doubt  and  disappointment, 


Nay,  but  what  is  the  message  ?     For  my  blood 
Runs  neither  hot  nor  cold  for  words  like  those. 


Shall  I  speak  now,  with  all  these  pressing  close, 
Or  pass  within  ? — To  me  both  ways  are  fair. 


Speak  forth  to  all !     The  grief  that  these  men  bear 
Is  more  than  any  fear  for  mine  own  death. 


I  speak  then  what  I  heard  from  God. — Thus  saith 
I  hoebus,  our  Lord  and  Seer,  in  clear  command. 
An  unclean  thing  there  is,  hid  in  our  land, 
bating  the  soil  thereof:  this  ye  shall  cast 
Out,  and  not  foster  till  all  help  be  past. 


How  cast  it  out  ?     What  was  the  evil  deed  ? 


^'  -p,  SOPHOCLES  TV.  100-113 

'-^    ri-"" 



Hunt  the  men  out  from  Thebes,  or  make  them  bleed 
Who  slew.     For  blood  it  is  that  stirs  to-day. 


Who  was  the  man  they  killed  ?     Doth  Phoebus  say  ? 


D  King,  there  was  of  old  King  Laius 

In  Thebes,  ere  thou  didst  come  to  pilot  us. 

I  know  :  not  that  I  ever  saw  his  face. 


'Twas  he.     And  Loxias  now  bids  us  trace 
And  smite  the  unknown  workers  of  his  fall. 


Where  in  God's  earth  are  they  ?     Or  how  withal 
Find  the  blurred  trail  of  such  an  ancient  stain  ? 


In  Thebes,  he  said. — That  which  men  seek  amain 
They  find,     'Tis  things  forgotten  that  go  by. 


And  where  did  Laius  meet  them  ?     Did  he  die 
In  Thebes,  or  in  the  hills,  or  some  far  land  ? 


Tv.ii4-ia7     OEDIPUS,   KING   OF   THEBES 


To  ask  God's  will  in  Delphi  he  had  planned 
His  journey.     Started  and  retuiiicd  no  more.', 



And  came  there  nothing  back  ?     No  message,  nor 
None  of  his  company,  that  ye  might  hear  ? 


They  all  were  slain,  save  one  man  ;  blind  with  fear 
He  came,  remembering  naught — or  almost  naught. 


And  what  was  that  ?     One  thing  has  often  brought 
Others,  could  we  but  catch  one  little  clue. 


'Twas  not  one  man,  *twas  robbers — that  he  knew — 
Who  barred  the  road  and  slew  him  :  a  great  band. 

J  Oedipus. 

p  Robbers  ?  .   .   .   What   robber,  save   the   work  was 

J  planned 

;  By  treason  here,  would  dare  a  risk  so  plain  f 


So  some  men  thought.     But  Lai'us  lay  slain. 
And  none  to  avenge  him  in  his  evil  day. 


SOPHOCLES  VT.  i2g-i48 


And  what  strange  mischief,  when  your  master  lay 
Thus  fallen,  held  you  back  from  search  and  deed  ? 


The  dark-songed  Sphinx  was  here.      We  had  no 

Of  distant  sorrows,  having  death  so  near. 


It  falls  on  me  then.     I  will  search  and  clear 
This  darkness. — Well  hath  Phoebus  done,  and  thou 
Too,  to  recall  that  dead  king,  even  now, 
^And  with  you  for  the  right  I  also  stand. 
To  obey  the  God  and  succour  this  dear  land. 
Nor  is  it  as  for  one  that  touches  me 
Far  off;  *tis  for  mine  own  sake  I  must  see 
This  sin  cast  out.     Whoe'er  it  was  that  slew 
Laius,  the  same  wild  hand  may  seek  me  too : 
And  caring  thus  for  Laius,  is  but  care 
For  mine  own  blood. — Up  !     Leave  this  altar-stair. 
Children.     Take  from  it  every  suppliant  bough. 
Then  call  the  folk  of  Thebes.     Say,  'tis  my  vow 
To  uphold  them  to  the  end.  ySo  God  shall  crown 
Our  greatness,  or  for  ever  cast  us  down. 

[He  goes  in  to  the  Palace. 


My  children,  rise. — The  King  most  lovingly 
Hath  promised  all  we  came  for.     And  may  He 

TT.i4^i6i     OEDIPUS,    KING   OF    THEBES 

Who  sent  this  answer,  Phoebus,  come  confessed 
Helper  to  Thebes,  and  strong  to  stay  the  pest. 

[The  suppliants  gather   up    their  boughs   and 

stand  at  the  side»     The  chorus  of  Thehan 

elders  enter , 


[TA<fy  speak  of  the  Oracle  which  they  have  not 

yet   heard,   and  cry   to  Apollo  by  his 

special  cry '' I-Sr 

A  Voice,  a  Voice,  that  is  borne  on  the  Holy  Way  ! 

What  art  thou,  O  Heavenly  One,  O  Word  of  the 

Houses  of  Gold  ? 
Thebes  is  bright  with  thee,  and  my  heart  it  leapeth ; 
yet  is  it  cold,  • 

And  my  spirit  faints  as  I  pray. 
l-t !  l-t ! 
What  task,  O  Affrightcr  of  Evil,  what  task  shall  thy 
people  essay  ? 

One  new  as  our  new-come  affliction, 

Or  an  old  toil  returned  with  the  years  ? 
Unveil  thee,  thou  dread  benediction, 
Hope's  daughter  and  Fear*s. 

[They   pray    to    Athena,    Artemis,    and 
Zeus-Child  that  knowest  not  death,  to  thee  I  pray, 
O  Pallas ;  next  to  thy  Sister,  who  calleth  Thebes  her 

Artemis,  named  of  Fair  Voices,  who  sitteth  her  orbW 
In  the  throng  of  the  market  way : 

SOPHOCLES  TV,  162-189 

And  1-t !  I-t  1 
Apollo,  the  Pure,  the  Far-smiter  ;  O  Three  that  keep 
evil  away. 
If  of  old  for  our  city's  desire, 

When  the  death-cloud  hung  close  to  her  brow, 
Ye  have  banished  the  wound  and  the  fire, 
Oh  1  come  to  us  now  I 

[They  tell  of  the  Pestilence, 
Wounds  beyond  telling  ;  my  people  sick  unto  death  ; 
And  where  is  the  counsellor,  where  is  the  sword  of 
thought  ? 
And  Holy  Earth  in  her  increase  perisheth  : 
The  child  dies  and  the  mother  awaketh  not. 
1-t  I  1-6  ! 
We  have  seen  them,  one  on  another,  gone  as  a  bird  is 
Souls  that  are  flame  ;  yea,  higher, 
Swifter  they  pass  than  fire. 

To  the  rocks  of  the  dying  Sun. 

[They  end  by  a  prayer  to  Athena, 
Their  city  wasteth  unnumbered  ;  their  children  lie 
Where   death    hath    cast  them,   unpitied,  unwept 
The  altars  stand,  as  in  seas  of  storm  a  high 

Rock  standeth,  and  wives  and  mothers  grey  thereon 
Weep,  weep  and  pray. 
Lo,  joy-cries  to  fright  the  Destroyer ;  a  flash  in  the 
dark  they  rise. 
Then  die  by  the  sobs  overladen. 
Send  help,  O  heaven-born  Maiden, 
Let  us  look  on  the  light  of  her  eyes  I 

TT.  i9o-ai7    OEDIPUS,   KING   OF  THEBES 

[To  Zeus,  that  he  drive  out  the  Slayer ^ 

And  Arcs,  the  abhorred 

Slayer,  who  bears  no  sword, 
But  shrieking,  wrapped  in  fire,  stands  over  me. 

Make  that  he  turn,  yea,  fly 

Broken,  wind-wasted,  high 
Down  the  vexed  hollow  of  the  Vaster  Sea ; 

Or  back  to  his  own  Thrace, 

To  harbour  shelterless. 
Where  Night  hath  spared,  he  bringeth  end  by  day. 

Him,  Him,  O  thou  whose  hand 

Beareth  the  lightning  brand, 
O  Father  Zeus,  now  with  thy  thunder,  slay  and  slay  ! 

[To  Apollo,  Artemis,  and  Dionysus. 
Where  is  thy  gold-strung  bow, 
O  Wolf-god,  where  the  flow 
Of  living  shafts  unconquered,  from  all  ills 
Our  helpers  ?     Where  the  white 
Spears  of  thy  Sister's  light. 
Far-flashing  as  she  walks  the  wolf-wild  hills  ? 
<And  thou,  O  Golden-crown, 
Theban  and  named  our  own, 
O  Wine-gleam,  Voice  of  Joy,  for  ever  more 
Ringed  with  thy  Maenads  white, 
Bacchus,  draw  near  and  smite. 
Smite  with  thy  glad-eyed  flame  the  God  whom  Gods 
abhor.  [During  the  last  lines  Oedipus  has 

come  out  from  the  Palace. 

Thou  prayest  :  but  my  words  if  tho'i  wilt  hear 
And  bow  thee  to  their  judgement,  strength  is  near 


SOPHOCLES  TT.  218-245 

For  help,  and  a  great  lightening  of  ill. 

Thereof  I  come  to  speak,  a  stranger  still 

To  all  this  tale,  a  stranger  to  the  deed  : 

(Else,  save  that  I  were  clueless,  little  nee<f 

Had  I  to  cast  my  net  so  wide  and  far  :) 

Howbeit,  I,  being  now  as  all  ye  are, 

A  Theban,  to  all  Thebans  high  and  low 

Do  make  proclaim  :  if  any  here  doth  know 

By  what  man's  hand  died  Laius,  your  King, 

Labdacus'  son,  I  charge  him  that  he  bring 

To  me  his  knowledge.     Let  him  feel  no  fear 

If  on  a  townsman's  body  he  must  clear 

Our  guilt :  the  man  shall  suffer  no  great  ill. 

But  pass  from  Thebes,  and  live  where  else  he  will. 

[No  answer. 
Is  it  some  alien  from  an  alien  shore 
Ye   know    to   have    done  the  deed,  screen    him   no 

more  I 
Good  guerdon  waits  you  now  and  a  King's  love 

Hah  !     If  still  ye  will  not  move 
But,  fearing  for  yourselves  or  some  near  friend. 
Reject  my  charge,  then  hearken  to  what  end 
Ye  drive  me. — If  in  this  place  men  there  be 
Who  know  and  speak  not,  lo,  I  make  decree 
That,  while  in  Thebes  I  bear  the  diadem. 
No  man  shall  greet,  no  man  shall  shelter  them, 
Nor  give  them  water  in  their  thirst,  nor  share 
In  sacrifice  nor  shrift  nor  dying  prayer. 
But  thrust  them  from  our  doors,  the  thing  they  hide 
Being  this  land's  curse.     Thus  hath  the  God  replied 
This  day  to  me  from  Delphi,  and  my  sword 
I  draw  thus  for  the  dead  and  for  God's  word. 


TT.  246-273    OEDIPUS,   KING   OF   THEBES 

And  lastly  for  the  murderer,  be  it  one 
Hiding  alone  or  more  in  unison, 
I  speak  on  him  this  curse  :  even  as  his  soui 
Is  foul  within  him  let  his  days  be  foul, 
And  life  unfriended  grind  him  till  he  die. 
More  :  if  he  ever  tread  my  hearth  and  I 
Know  it,  be  every  curse  upon  my  head 
That  I  have  spoke  this  day. 

All  I  have  said 
I  charge  ye  strictly  to  fulfil  and  make 
Perfect,  for  my  sake,  for  Apollo's  sake. 
And  this  land's  sake,  deserted  of  her  fruit 
And  cast  out  from  her  gods.    -Nay,  were  all  mute 
At  Delphi,  still  'twere  strange  to  leave  the  thing 
UnfoUowed,  when  a  true  man  and^  King 
Lay  m;u"dered.     All  should  search.  J  But  I,  as  now 
Our  fortunes  fall — his  crown  is  on  my  brow. 
His  wife  lies  in  my  arms,  and  common  fate, 
Had  but  his  issue  been  more  fortunate. 
Might    well    have   joined    our    children — since   this 

Chance  hath  so  stamped  its  heel  on  Laius'  head, 
I  am  his  champion  left,  and,  as  I  would  /^Jbpr* 

For  mine  own  father,  choose  for  ill  or  good 
This  quest,  to  find  the  man  who  slew  of  yore 
Labdacus'  son,  the  son  of  Polydore, 
Son  of  great  Cadmus  whom  Agenor  old 
Begat,  of  Thebes  first  master.     And,  behold. 
For  them  that  aid  me  not,  I  pray  no  root 
Nor  seed  in  earth  may  bear  them  corn  nor  fruit. 
No  wife  bear  children,  but  this  present  curse 
Cleave  to  them  close  and  other  woes  yet  worse. 

Enough  :  ye  other  people  of  the  land, 

SOPHOCLES  TT.  274-289 

Whose  will  is  one  with  mine,  may  Justice  stand 
Your  helper,  and  all  gods  for  evermore. 

[The  crowd  disperses. 


O  King,  even  while  thy  curse  yet  hovers  o'er 
My  head,  I  answer  thee.     I  slew  him  not, 
Nor  can  I  shew  the  slayer.     But,  God  wot. 
If  Phoebus  sends  this  charge,  let  Phoebus  read 
Its  meaning  and  reveal  who  did  the  deed. 


Aye,  that  were  just,  if  of  his  grace  he  would 
Reveal  it.     How  shall  man  compel  his  God  ? 

Second  to  that,  methinks,  'twould  help  us  most  .  .  . 

Though  it  be  third,  speak  1     Nothing  should  be  lost. 


To  our  High  Seer  on  earth  vision  is  given 
Most  like  to  that  High  Phoebus  hath  in  heaven. 
Ask  of  Tiresias  :  he  could  tell  thee  true. 

Oedipus.  » 

That  also  have  I  thought  for.     Aye,  and  two  I 

Heralds  have  sent  ere  now.     'Twas  Creon  set  ■ 

Me  on. — I  marvel  that  he  comes  not  yet. 

VT.  890-301    OEDIPUS,   KING   OF   THEBES 

Our  other  clues  are  weak,  old  signs  and  ^. 

What  signs  ?     I  needs  must  question  all  that  arc. 

Some  travellers  slew  him,  the  tale  used  to  be. 

The  tale,  yes  :  but  the  witness,  where  is  he  ? 


The  man  hath  heard  thy  curses.     If  he  knows 
The  taste  of  fear,  he  will  not  long  stay  close. 

He  fear  my  words,  who  never  feared  the  deed  ? 


Well,  there  is  one  shall  find  him. — See,  they  lead 
Hither  our  Lord  Tiresias,  in  whose  mind 
All  truth  is  born,  alone  of  human  kind. 

Enter  Tiresias  led  by  a  young  disciple.     He  is  an  old       ^^ 
blind  man  in  a  prophet's  robe^  dark^  unkempt  and  j 
sinister  in  appearance.  ' 


Tiresias,  thou  whose  mind  divineth  well 
All  Truth,  the  spoken  and  the  unspeakable, 

17  ■ 

SOPHOCLES  »T.  302-321 

The  things  of  heaven  and  them  that  walk  the  earth  ; 

Our  city  .  .  .  thou  canst  see,  for  all  thy  dearth 

Of  outward  eyes,  what  clouds  are  over  her. 

In  which,  O  gracious  Lord,  no  minister 

Of  help,  no  champion,  can  we  find  at  all 

Save  thee.     For  Phoebus — thou  hast  heard  withal 

His  message — to  our  envoy  hath  decreed 

One  only  way  of  help  in  this  great  need  : 

To  find  and  smite  with  death  or  banishing, 

Him  who  smote  Laius,  our  ancient  King. 

Oh,  grudge  us  nothing  !     Question  every  cry 

Of  birds,  and  all  roads  else  of  prophecy 

Thou  knowest.     Save  our  city  :  save  thine  own 

Greatness  :  save  me  ;  save  all  that  yet  doth  groan 

Under  the  dead  man's  wrong  I     Lo,  in  thy  hand 

We  lay  us.     And,  methinks,  no  work  so  grand 

Hath  man  yet  compassed,  as,  with  all  he  can 

Of  chance  or  power,  to  help  his  fellow  man. 

TiRESiAS  {to  himself). 

Ah  me  I 

A  fearful  thing  is  knowledge,  when  to  know 
Helpeth  no  end.     I  knew  this  long  ago. 
But  crushed  it  dead.     Else  had  I  never  come. 

What  means  this  ?     Comest  thou  so  deep  in  gloom  ? 


Let  me  go  back  !     Thy  work  shall  weigh  on  thcc 
The  less,  if  thou  consent,  and  mine  on  mc. 


TT.3a»-336    OEDIPUS,   KING   OF   THEBES' 


Prophet,  this  is  not  lawful ;  nay,  nor  kind 

To  Thebes,  who  feeds  thee,  thus  to  veil  thy  mind. 


'Tis  that  I  like  not  thy  mind,  nor  the  way 
It  goeth.     Therefore,  lest  I  also  stray  .  .  . 

[He  moves  to  go  of.     Oedipus  bars  his  road, 


Thou  shalt  not,  knowing,  turn  and  leave  ixs  !     See, 
Wc  all  implore  thee,  all,  on  bended  knee. 


All  without  light ! — And  never  light  shall  shine 
On  this  dark  evil  that  is  mine  .  .  .  and  thine. 


What  wilt  thou  ?     Know  and  speak  not  ?     In  my 

Be  false  to  me,  and  let  thy  city  bleed  ? 

TlRESIAS.  X^^'^r*"" 

I  will  not  wound  myself  nor  thee.     Why  seek  /    j- 

To  trap  and  question  me  ?     I  will  not  speak. 

Thou  devil  I 

[Movement  «/" Leader  to  check  himX 
Nay  ;  the  wrath  of  any  stone 
Would  rise  at  him.     It  lies  with  thee  to  have  done 
And  speak.     Is  there  no  melting  in  thine  eyes  I 

SOPHOCLES  TT.  337-351 


Naught  lies  with  me !     With  thee,  with  thee  there 

I  warrant,  what  thou  ne'er  hast  seen  nor  guessed. 

Oedipus  {to  Leader,  who  tries  to  cairn  htm). 

How  can  I  hear  such  talk  ? — he  maketh  jest     ' 
Of  the  land's  woe — and  keep  mine  anger  dumb  ? 


Howe'er  I  hold  it  back,  'twill  come,  'twill  come. 

The  more  shouldst  thou  declare  it  to  thy  King. 


I  speak  no  more.     For  thee,  if  passioning 
Doth  comfort  thee,  on,  passion  to  thy  fill  I 

[He  moves  to  go. 


'Fore  God,  I  am  in  wrath  ;  and  speak  I  will. 
Nor  stint  what  I  see  clear.     'Twas  thou,  'twas  thou. 
Didst  plan  this  murder  ;  aye,  and,  save  the  blow, 
Wrought  it. — I  know  thou  art  blind ;  else  I  could 

Thou,  and  thou  only,  art  the  murderer. 

TiRESIAS  {returning). 

So  ? — I  command  thee  by  thine  own  word's  power. 
To  stand  accurst,  and  never  from  this  hour 


".35»-363    OEDIPUS,   KING   OF   THEBES 

Speak  word  to  me,  nor  yet  to  these  who  ring 
Thy  throne.     Thou  art  thyself  the  unclean  thing. 


Thou  front  of  brass,  to  fling  out  injury 

So  wild  !     Dost  think  to  bate  me  and  go  free  ? 


I  am  free.     The  strong  truth  is  in  this  heart. 

What  prompted  thee  ?     I  swear  *twas  not  thine  art. 


*Twa$  thou.     I  spoke  not,  save  for  thy  command. 

Spoke  what  ?     What  was  it  ?     Let  me  understand. 

TiRESIAS.  ,  W^ 

Dost  tempt  me  ?     Were  my  words  before  not  plain  !       <iX«^^ 

Scarce  thy  full  meaning.     Speak  the  words  again. 

Thou  seek*st  this  man  of  blood  :  Thyself  art  he 


'Twill  cost  thee  dear,  twice  to  have  stabbed  at  me  I 


SOPHOCLES  TT.  364-377 


Shall  I  say  more,  to  see  thee  rage  again  ? 

Oh,  take  thy  fill  of  speech  :  'twill  all  be  vain. 


Thou  livcst  with  those  near  to  thee  in  shame 
Most  deadly,  seeing  noi  thyself  nor  them. 


Thou   think'st  'twill  help  thee,  thus   to  speak  and 
speak  ? 


Surely,  until  the  strength  of  Truth  be  weak. 


*Tis  weak  to  none  save  thee.     Thou  hast  no  part 
In  truth,  thou  blind  man,  blind  eyes,  ears  and  heart. 


More  blind,  more  sad  thy  words  of  scorn,  which  none 
Who  hears  but  shall  cast  back  on  thee  :  soon,  soon. 


Thou  spawn  of  Night,  not  I  nor  any  free 
And  seeing  man  would  hurt  a  thing  like  thee. 


God  is  enough. — 'Tis  not  my  doom  to  fall 
By  thee.     He  knows  and  shall  accomplish  all. 


TV.  378-402    OEDIPUS,   KING   OF   THEBES 

Oedipus  {with  a  flash  of  discovery). 
Ha  !     Creon  ! — Is  it  his  or  thine,  this  plot  ? 


*Tis  thyself  hates  thee.     Creon  hates  thee  not. 


0  wealth  and  majesty,  O  conquering  skill    N![[~ 
That  carved  life's  rebel  pathways  to  my  will, 
What  is  your  heart  but  bitterness,  if  now 

For  this  poor  crown  Thebes  bound  upon  my  brow, 
A  gift,  a  thing  I  sought  not — for  this  crown 
Creon  the  stern  and  true,  Creon  mine  own 
Comrade,  comes  creeping  in  the  dark  to  ban 
And  slay  me  ;  sending  first  this  magic-man 
And  schemer,  this  false  beggar-priest,  whose  eye 
Is  bright  for  gold  and  blind  for  prophecy  ? 
Speak,   thou.     When    hast   thou    ever   shown   thee 

For  aid  ?     The  She-Wolf  of  the  woven  song 
Came,  and  thy  art  could  find  no  word,  no  breath. 
To  save  thy  people  from  her  riddling  death. 
'Twas  scarce  a  secret,  that,  for  common  men 
To  unravel.      There  was  need  of  Seer-craft  then. 
And  thou  hadst  none  to  show.     No  fowl,  no  flame. 
No  God  revealed  it  thee.     'Twas  I  that  came. 
Rude  Oedipus,  unlearned  in  wizard's  lore,  •         ( 
And  read  her  secret,  and  she  spoke  no  more.    ^„— -* 
Whom  now  thou  thinkcst  to  hunt  out,  and  stand 
Foremost  in  honour  at  King  Creon's  hand. 

1  think  ye  will  be  sorry,  thou  and  he 

That  shares  thy  sin-hunt.     Thou  dost  look  to  me 

SOPHOCLES  VT.  403-424 

An  old  man  ;  else,  I  swear  this  day  should  bring 
On  thee  the  death  thou  plottest  for  thy  King. 


Lord  Oedipus,  these  be  but  words  of  wrath, 
All  thou  hast  spoke  and  all  the  Prophet  hath. 
Which  skills  not.     We  must  join,  for  ill  or  well, 
In  search  how  best  to  obey  God's  oracle. 


King  though  thou  art,  thou  needs  must  bear  the  right 

Of  equal  answer.     Even  in  me  is  might 

For  thus  much,  seeing  t  live  no  thrall  of  thine, 

But  Lord  Apollo's  ;  neither  do  I  sign 

Where  Creon  bids  me. 

I  ana  blind,  and  thou. 
Hast  mocked  my  blindness.     Yea,  I  will  speak  now. 
Eyes  hast  thou,  but  thy  deeds  thou  canst  not  see 
Nor  where  thou  art,  nor  what  things  dwell  with  thee. 
Whence  art  thou   born  ?     Thou  know'st   not ;   and 

On  quick  and  dead,  on  all  that  were  thine  own, 
Thou  hast  wrought  hate.     For  that  across  thy  path 
Rising,  a  mother's  and  a  father's  wrath, 
Two-handed,  shod  with  fire,  from  the  haunts  of  men 
Shall  scourge  thee,  in  thine  eyes  now  light,  but  then 
Darkness.     Aye,  shriek  !     What  harbour  of  the  sea. 
What  wild  Kithairon  shall  not  cry  to  thee 
In  answer,  when  thou  hear'st  what  bridal  song. 
What  wind  among  the  torches,  bore  thy  strong 
Sail  to  its  haven,  not  of  peace  but  blood. 
Yea,  ill  things  multitude  on  multitude  i 


TT. 4^5-438    OEDIPUS,     KING   OF   THEBES 

Thou  sccst  not,  which  so  soon  shall  lay  thee  low, 
Low  as  thyself,  low  as  thy  children. — Go, 
Heap  scorn  on  Creon  and  my  lips  withal : 
For  this  I  tell  thee,  never  was  there  fall 
Of  pride,  nor  shall  be,  like  to  thine  this  day. 


To  brook  such  words  from  this  thing  ?     Out,  I  say  ! 
Out  to  perdition  !     Aye,  and  quick,  before  .  .  . 

[The  Leader  restrains  him. 
Enough  then  !— Turn  and  get  thee  from  my  door. 


I  had  not  come  hadst  thou  not  called  me  here. 


I  knew  thee  not  so  dark  a  fool.     I  swear 
*Twcre  long  before  I  called  thee,  had  I  known. 


Fool,  say'st  thou  ?     Am  I  truly  such  an  one  ? 
The  two  who  gave  thee  birth,  they  held  me  wise. 


Birth  ?   .   .   .  Stop !     Who  were  they  ?     Speak  thy 


This  day  shall  give  thee  birth  and  blot  thee  out. 


Oh,  riddles  everywhere  and  words  of  doubt  I 


Aye.     Thou  wast  their  best  reader  long  ago. 

Laugh  on.     I  swear  thou  still  shalt  find  me  so, 


That  makes  thy  pride  and  thy  calamity. 

I  have  saved  this  land,  and  care  not  if  I  die. 


Then  I  will  go. — Give  me  thine  arm,  my  child. 


Aye,  help  him  quick. — To  see  him  there  makes  wild 
My  heart.     Once  gone,  he  will  not  vex  me  more. 

TiRESIAS  {turning  again  as  he  goes), 

I  fear  thee  not ;  nor  will  I  go  before 
That  word  be  spoken  which  I  came  to  speak. 
How  canst  thou  ever  touch  me  ? — Thou  dost  seek 
With  threats  and  loud  proclaim  the  man  whose  hand 
Slew  Laius.     Lo,  I  tell  thee,  he  doth  stand 
Here.     He  is  called  a  stranger,  but  these  days 
Shall  prove  him  Theban  true,  nor  shall  he  praise 
His  birthright.     Blind,  who  once  had  seeing  eyes. 
Beggared,  who  once  had  riches,  in  strange  guise, 


/v. 456-478    OEDIPUS,   KING   OF   THEBES 

His  staff  groping  before  him,  he  shall  crawl 

0*cr  unknown  earth,  and  voices  round  him  call : 

"Behold  the  brother-father  of  his  own  .   K,<V  '  '  \ 

Children,  the  seed,  the  sower  and  the  sown,  \ 

Shame  to  his  mother's  blood,  and  to  his  sire 

Son,  murderer,  incest-worker." 

Cool  thine  ire 
With  thought  of  these,  and  if  thou  find  that  aught 
Faileth,  then  hold  my  craft  a  thing  of  naught. 

\He  goes  $ut.     Oedipus  returns  to  tht  Palace. 

[  They  sing  of  the  unknown  murder er^ 
What  man,  what   man   is   he   whom  the   voice   of 

Delphi's  cell 
Hath   named  of  the  bloody  hand,  of  the  deed   no 
tongue  may  tell  ? 

Let  him  fly,  fly,  for  his  need 
Hath  found  him  ;  oh,  where  is  the  speed 
That  flew  with  the  winds  of  old,  the  team  of  North- 
Wind's  spell  ? 
For  feet  there  be  that  follow.     Yea,  thunder-shod 
And  girt  with  fire  he  cometh,  the  Child  of  God  j 
And  with  him  are  they  that  foil  not,  the  Sin-Hounds 
risen  from  Hell. 

For  the  mountain  hath  spoken,  a  voice  hath  flashed 

from  amid  the  snows, 
Tbat  the  wrath  of  the  world  go  seek  for   the  man 
whom  no  man  knows. 

Is  he  fled  to  the  wild  forest. 
To  caves  where  the  eagles  nest  ? 
O  angry  bull  of  the  rocks,  cast  out  from  thy  herd- 
fellows  ' 



Rage  in  his  heart,  and  rage  across  his  way, 
He  toileth  ever  to  beat  from  his  cars  away 
The  word  that  floatcth  about  him,  living,  where'er 
he  goes. 

[Jnd  of  the  Prophet*  s  strange  accusation. 
Yet  strange,  passing  strange,  the  wise  augur  and  his 
And   my  heart   it  cannot  speak;  I  deny  not  nor 
But  float,  float  in  wonder  at  things  after  and  before  ; 
Did  there  lie  between  their  houses  some  old  wrath 
That  Corinth  agamst  Cadmus  should  do  murder  by 
the  way  ? 
No  tale  thereof  they  tell,  nor  no  sign  thereof  they 
show  ; 
Who  dares  to  rise  for  vengeance  and  cast  Oedipus  away 
For  a  dark,  dark  death  long  ago  I 

Ah,  Zeus  knows,  and  Apollo,  what  is  dark  to  mortal 
eyes ; 
They  are  Gods.     But  a  prophet,  hath  he  vision 
more  than  mine  ? 
Who   hath   seen  ?     Who   can    answer  ?     There    be 
wise  men  and  unwise. 
I  will  wait,  I  will  wait,  for  the  proving  of  the  sign. 
But  I  list  not  nor  hearken  when  they  speak  Oedipus  ill. 
We  saw  his  face  of  yore,  when  the  riddling  singer 
passed ; 
And  we  knew  him  that  he  loved  us,  and  we  saw  him 
great  in  skill. 

Oh,  my  heart  shall  uphold  him  to  the  last ) 

'^.513-531    OEDIPUS,   KING   OF   THEBES 

Enter  Creon.  -^  ^'        /C< 

Creon.  '^      /^'   ^ 

Good  brother  citizens,  a  frantic  word 
I  hear  is  spoken  by  our  chosen  Lord 
Oedipus  against  me,  and  here  am  come 
Indignant.     If  he  dreams,  *mid  all  this  doom 
That  weighs  upon  us,  he  hath  had  from  me 
Or  deed  or  lightest  thought  of  injury,  .  .  . 
'Fore  God,  I  have  no  care  to  see  the  sun 
Longer  with  such  a  groaning  name.     Not  one 
Wound  is  it,  but  a  multitude,  if  now 
All  Thebes  must  hold  me  guilty — aye,  and  thou 
And  all  who  loved  me — of  a  deed  so  foul. 

If  words  were  spoken,  it  was  scarce  the  sotd 
That  spoke  them  :  'twas  some  sudden  burst  of  wrath. 

The  charge  was  made,  then,  that  Tiresias  hath 
Made  answer  false,  and  that  I  bribed  him,  I  ? 

It  was — perchance  for  jest.     I  know  not  why. 

Creon.  . 
His  heart  beat  true,  his  eyes  looked  steadily 
And  fell  not,  laying  such  a  charge  on  me  ? 

I  know  not.     I  have  no  eyes  for  the  thing 
My  masters  da — But  see,  here  comes  the  King. 

SOPHOCLES  »T.  532-550 

Enter  Objutvs  from  the  Palacu 
How  now,  assassin  ?     Walking  at  my  gate 
With  eye  undimmcd,  thou  plotter  demonstrate 
Against  this  life,  and  robber  of  my  crown  ? 
God  help  thee  1     Me  !     What  was  it  set  me  down 
Thy  butt  ?     So  dull  a  brain  hast  found  in  me 
Aforetime,  such  a  faint  heart,  not  to  see 
Thy  work  betimes,  or  seeing  not  to  smite  ? 
Art  thou  not  rash,  this  once  !     It  needeth  might 
Of  friends,  it  needeth  gold,  to  make  a  throne 
Thy  quarry  ;  and  I  fear  me  thou  hast  none. 


One  thing  alone  I  ask  thee.     Let  me  speak 

As  thou  hast  spoken  ;  then,  with  knowledge,  wreak 

Thy  judgement.     I  accept  it  without  fear. 


More  skill  hast  thou  to  speak  than  I  to  hear 
Thee.     There  is  peril  found  in  thee  and  hate. 

That  one  thing  let  me  answer  ere  too  late. 

One  thing  be  sure  of,  that  thy  plots  are  known. 

Creon.  » 

The  man  who  thinks  that  bitter  pride  alone 
Can  guide  him,  without  thought — his  mind  is  sick. 

TT.55i-s6a    OEDIPUS,   KING   OF   THEBES 


Who  thinks  to  slay  his  brother  with  a  trick 
And  suffer  not  himself)  his  ejcs  are  blind. 


Thy  words  are  more  than  just.     But  say  what  kind 
Of  wrong  thou  fanciest  I  have  done  thee.     Speak. 


Didst  urge  me,  or  didst  urge  me  not,  to  seek 
A  coimsel  from  that  man  of  prophecies  ? 

So  judged  I  then,  nor  now  judge  otherwise. 


[Suddenly  seeing  a  mode  of  attack.     ^ 
How  many  years  have  passed  since  Lalus  .  .  . 

[The  words  seem  to  choke  him.      / 

Speak  on.     I  cannot  understand  thee  thus. 


[With  an  effort. 
Passed  in  that  bloody  tempest  from  men's  sight  ?  "T" 

Creon.  / 

Long  years  and  old.     I  scarce  can  tell  them  right. 

At  that  time  was  this  seer  in  Thebes,  or  how  ? 

^^^       SOPHOCLES  TT.  563-573 

^        r ., '  ^)  Creon. 

He  was  ;  most  wise  and  honoured,  even  as  now. 

At  I  hat  time  did  he  ever  speak  my  name  ? 

No.     To  mine  ear  at  least  it  never  came. 

Held  yoii  no  search  for  those  who  slew  your  King  ? 

For  sure  we  did,  but  found  not  anything. 

How  came  vhe  all-knowing  seer  to  leave  it  so  ? 

Ask  him  I     1  speak  not  where  I  cannot  know. 

One  thing  thmi  canst,  with  knowledge  full,  I  wot 

Speak  it.     If  true,  I  will  conceal  it  not. 


This  :  that  until  he  talked  with  thee,  the  seer 
Ne'er  spoke  of  me  as  Laius'  murderer. 


»T.  574-589    OEDIPUS,   KING   OF   THEBES 

I  know  not  if  he  hath  so  spoken  now. 
I  heard  him  not. — But  let  me  ask  and  thou 
Answer  me  true,  as  I  have  answered  thee. 

Ask,  ask  !     Thou  shalt  no  murder  find  in  me. 



My  sister  is  thy  wife  this  many  a  day  ? 

That  charge  it  is  not^in  me  to  gainsay. 

Thou  reignest,  giving  equal  reign  to  her  ? 

Always  to  her  desire  I  minister. 

Were  we  not  all  as  one,  she  thou  and  I  ? 

Yes,  thou  false  friend  !     There  lies  thy  treachery. 

Not  so  !     Nay,  do  but  follow  me  and  scan 
Thine  own  charge  close.      Think'st  thou  that  any 

Would  rather  rule  and  be  afraid  than  rule 
And  sleep  untroubled  \     Nay,  where  lives  the  fool — 
3^  c 

SOPHOCLES  T».  S90-613 

I  know  them  not  nor  am  I  one  of  them — 

Who  careth  more  to  bear  a  monarch's  name 

Than  do  a  monarch's  deeds  ?     As  now  I  stand 

All  my  desire  I  compass  at  thy  hand. 

Were  I  the  King,  full  half  my  deeds  were  done 

To  obey  the  will  of  others,  not  mine  own. 

Were  that  as  sweet,  when  all  the  tale  were  told, 

As  this  calm  griefless  princedom  that  I  hold 

And  silent  power  f     Am  I  so  blind  of  brain 

That  ease  with  glory  tires  me,  and  I  fain 

Must  change  them  ?    All  men  now  give  me  God-speed, 

All  smile  to  greet  me.     If  a  man  hath  need 

Of  thee,  'tis  me  he  calleth  to  the  gate, 

As  knowing  that  on  my  word  hangs  the  fate 

Of  half  he  craves.     Is  life  like  mine  a  thing 

To  cast  aside  and  plot  to  be  a  King  ? 

Doth  a  sane  man  turn  villain  in  an  hour  ? 

For  me,  I  never  lusted  thus  for  power 
Nor  bore  with  any  man  who  turned  such  lust 
To  doing. — But  enough.     I  claim  but  just 
Question.     Go  first  to  Pytho  ;  find  if  well 
And  true  I  did  report  God's  oracle. 
Next,  seek  in  Thebes  for  any  plots  entwined 
Between  this  seer  and  me  ;  which  if  ye  find. 
Then  seize  and  strike  me  dead.     Myself  that  day 
Will  sit  with  thee  as  judge  and  bid  thee  Slay  ! 
But  damn  me  not  on  one  man's  guess. — 'Tis  all 
Unjust :  to  call  a  traitor  true,  to  call 
A  true  man  traitor  with  no  cause  nor  end  ! 
And  this  I  tell  thee.     He  who  plucks  a  friend  " 

Out  from  his  heart  hath  lost  a  treasured  thing 
Dear  as  his  own  dear  life. 

But  Time  shall  bring 

^.614-626    OEDIPUS,   KING   OF   THEBES 

Truth  back.     'Tis  Time  alone  can  make  men  know 
What  hearts  are  true  j  the  false  one  day  can  show. 


To  one  that  fears  to  fall  his  words  are  wise, 

O  King ;  in  thought  the  swift  win  not  the  prize. 


When  he  is  swift  who  steals  against  my  reign 
With  plots,  then  swift  am  I  to  plot  again. 
Wait  patient,  and  his  work  shall  have  prevailed 
Before  I  move,  and  mine  for  ever  failed. 

How  then  ?     To  banish  me  is  thy  intent  ? 

Death  is  the  doom  I  choose,_iiQt  .banishment. 

Wilt  never  soften,  never  trust  thy  friend  ? 

First  I  would  see  how  traitors  meet  their  end. 

I  see  thou  wilt  not  think. 


I  think  to  save 
My  life. 


SOPHOCLES  TT.  627-633 

Think,  too,  of  mine. 


Thine,  thou  born  knave  I 

Yes.  .  .  .  What,  if  thou  art  blind  in  everything  ? 

The  King  must  be  obeyed. 


Not  if  the  King 
Does  evil. 

To  your  King  !    Ho,  Thebes,  mine  own  I 


Thebes  is  my  country,  not  the  King's  alone. 

/Oedipus  has  drawn  his_sword ;  the  Chorus 



1/         show  signs  of  breaking  into  two  parties  to 
fight  for  Oedipus  or  for   Creon,  when 
yS^^  the  door  opens  and  Jocasta  appears  on  the 

'  '  steps. 


Stay,  Princes,  stay  !     See,  on  the  Castle  stair 
The  Queen  Jocasta  standeth.     Show  to  her 
Your  strife.     She  will  assuage  it  as  is  well. 

»T.  634-648    OEDIPUS,   KING   OF   THEBES 


Vain  men,  what  would  ye  with  this  angry  swell 
Of  words  heart-blinded  ?     Is  there  in  your  eyes 
No  pity,  thus,  when  all  our  city  lies 
Bleeding,  to  ply  your  privy  hates  ?  .  .  .  Alack, 
My  lord,  come  in  ! — Thou,  Creon,  get  thee  back 
To  thine  own  house.     And  stir  not  to  such  stress  , 
Of  peril  griefs  that  are  but  nothingness.  '/ 


Sister,  it  is  the  pleasure  of  thy  lord. 

Our  King,  to  do  me  deadly  wrong.     His  word 

Is  passed  on  me  :  'tis  banishment  or  death. 


I  found  him  ...  I  deny  not  what  he  saith. 
My  Queen  .  .  .  with  craft  and  malice  practising 
Against  my  life. 


Ye  Gods,  if  such  a  thing 
Hath  once  been  in  my  thoughts,  may  I  no  more 
See  any  health  on  earth,  but,  festered  o'er 
With  curses,  die  ! — Have  done.     There  is  mine  oath. 


In  God's  name,  Oedipus,  believe  him,  both 
For  my  sake,  and  for  these  whose  hearts  are  aH 
Thine  own,  and  for  my  brother's  oath  withal. 


SOPHOCLES  TT.  64^-664 

Leader.  [Strophe. 

Yield  J  consent ;  think!     My  Lord,  I  conjure  thee! 

What  would  ye  have  me  do  ? 

Reject  not  one  who  never  failed  his  troth 
Of  old  and  now  is  strong  in  his  great  oath. 

Dost  know  what  this  prayer  means  ? 


Yea,  verily  1 

Say  then  the  meaning  true. 


I  would  not  have  thee  cast  to  infamy 
Of  guilt,  where  none  is  proved, 
One  who  hath  sworn  and  whom  thou  once  hast  loved. 


*Tis  that  ye  seek  ?     For  me,  then  .  .  .  understand 
Well  ...  ye  seek  death  or  exile  from  the  land. 


No,  by  the  God  of  Gods,  the  all-seeing  Sun  I 
May  he  desert  me  here,  and  every  friend 

With  him,  to  death  and  utterest  malison. 
If  e'er  my  heart  could  dream  of  such  an  end  I 

TT.  665-680    OEDIPUS,    KING   OF   THEBES 

But  it  bleedeth,  it  bleedcth  sore, 

In  a  land  half  slain. 
If  we  join  to  the  griefs  of  yore 

Griefs  of  you  twain. 


Oh,  let  him  go,  though  it  be  utterly 
My  death,  or  flight  from  Thebes  in  beggary. 
'Tis  thy  sad  lips,  not  his,  that  make  me  know 
Pity.     Him  I  shall  hate,  where'er  he  go. 


I  see  thy  mercy  moving  full  of  hate 
And  slow  ;  thy  wrath  came  swift  and  desperate. 
Methinks,  of  all  the  pain  that  such  a  heart 
Spreadeth,  itself  doth  bear  the  bitterest  part. 

Oh,  leave  me  and  begone  I 


I  go,  wronged  sore 
By  thee.     These  friends  will  trust  me  as  before. 

[Creon  goes.     Oedipus  stands  apart  lost  in  » 
trouble  of  mind.  ' 

Leader.  [Antistrophe, 

Queen,  wilt  thou  lead  him  to  his  house  again  ? 


I  will,  when  I  have  heard. 

SOPHOCLES  TV.  681-696 


There  fell  some  word,  some  blind  imagining 
Between  them.    Things  known  foolish  yet  can  sting. 


From  both  the  twain  it  rose  ? 


From  both  the  twain. 


Aye,  and  what  was  the  word  ? 


Surely  there  is  enough  of  evil  stirred. 

And  Thebes  heaves  on  the  swell 
Of  storm. — Oh,  leave  this  lying  where  it  fell. 


So  be  it,  thou  wise  counsellor  !     Make  slight 
My  wrong,  and  blunt  my  purpose  ere  it  smite. 


O  King,  not  once  I  have  answered.     Visibly 

Mad  were  I,  lost  to  all  wise  usages, 
To  seek  to  cast  thee  from  us.     'Twas  from  thee 
We  saw  of  old  blue  sky  and  summer  seas, 
When  Thebes  in  the  storm  and  rain 

Reeled,  like  to  die. 
Oh,  if  thou  canst,  again 
Blue  sky,  blue  sky  .  .  . ! 

»▼  697-713    OEDIPUS,    KING    OF    THEBES 


Husband,  in  God*s  name,  say  what  hath  ensued 
Of  ill,  that  thou  shouldst  seek  so  dire  a  feud. 


I  will,  wife.     I  have  more  regard  for  thee 
Than  these. — Thy  brother  plots  to  murder  me. 


Speak  on.     Make  all  thy  charge.     Only  be  clear. 

He  says  that  I  am  Lalus*  miu-derer. 


Sajrs  it  himself?     Says  he  hath  witnesses  ? 


Nay,  of  himself  he  ventures  nothing.     'Tis 
This  priest,  this  hellish  seer,  makes  all  the  talc. 


The  seer  ? — Then  tear  thy  terrors  like  a  veil 
And  take  free  breath.     A  seer  ?     No  human  thing 

•'Born  on  the  earth  hath  power  for  conjuring 

f Truth  from  the  dark  of  God. 

Come,  I  will  tell 
An  old  tale.     There  came  once  an  oracle 
To  Laius  :  I  say  not  from  the  God 
Himself,  but  from  the  priests  and  seers  who  trod 
His  sanctuary  :  if  ever  son  were  bred 
From  him  and  me,  by  that  son's  hand,  it  said, 

SOPHOCLES  vv.  714-732 

Lai'us  must  die.     And  he,  the  tale  yet  stays 
Among  us,  at  the  crossing  of  three  ways 
Was  slain  by  robbers,  strangers.     And  my  son — 
God's  mercy  ! — scarcely  the  third  day  was  gone 
When  Laius  took,  and  by  another's  hand 
Out  on  the  desert  mountain,  where  the  land 
Is  rock,  cast  him  to  die.     Through  both  his  feet 
A  blade  of  iron  they  drove.     Thus  did  we  cheat 
Apollo  of  his  will.     My  child  could  slay 
No  father,  and  the  King  could  cast  away 
The  fear  that  dogged  him,  by  his  child  to  die 
Murdered. — Behold  the  fruits  of  prophecy  ! 
Which  heed  not  thou  !     God  needs  not  that  a  seer 
Help  him,  when  he  would  make  his  dark  things  clear. 


Woman,  what  turmoil  hath  thy  story  wrought 
Within  me  1     What  up-stirring  of  old  thought  I 


What  thought  ?     It  turns  thee  like  a  frightened  thing.      | 

*Twas  at  the  crossing  of  three  ways  this  King 
Was  murdered  ?     So  I  heard  or  so  I  thought. 


That  was  the  tale.     It  is  not  yet  forgot. 


The  crossing  of  three  ways  I     And  in  what  land  i 

»T.  733-746    OEDIPUS,   KING   OF   THEBES 


Phokis  *tis  called.     A  road  on  cither  hand 
From  Delphi  comes  and  Daulia,  in  a  glen. 

How  many  years  and  months  have  passed  since  then  ? 


'Twas  but  a  little  time  before  proclaim 
Was  made  of  thee  for  king,  the  tidings  came. 

My  God,  what  hast  thou  willed  to  do  with  me  ? 


Oedipus,  speak !     What  is  it  troubles  thee  ? 


Ask  me  not  yet.     But  say,  what  build,  what  height 
Had  Laius  ?     Rode  he  full  of  youth  and  might  ? 


Tall,  with  the  white  new  gleaming  on  his  brow 
He  walked.     In  shape  just  such  a  man  as  thou. 


God  help  me  I     I  much  fear  that  I  have  wrought 
A  curse  on  mine  own  head,  and  knew  it  not. 


How  sayst  thou  ?     O  my  King,  I  look  on  thcc 
And  tremble. 


SOPHOCLES  TV.  747-760 

Oedipus  {to  himself). 

Horror,  if  the  blind  can  see  ! 
Answer  but  one  thing  and  'twill  all  be  clear. 


Speak.     I  will  answer  though  I  shake  with  fear. 


Went  he  with  scant  array,  or  a  great  band 
Of  arm^d  followers,  like  a  lord  of  land  ? 


Four  men  were  with  him,  one  a  herald  ;  one 
Chariot  there  was,  where  Lalus  rode  alone. 


Aye  me  !     Tis  clear  now. 

Woman,  who  could  bring 
To  Thebes  the  story  of  that  manslaying  ? 


A  house-thrall,  the  one  man  they  failed  to  slay. 

The  one  man  .  .  .  ?     Is  he  in  the  house  to-day  ? 


Indeed  no.     When  he  came  that  day,  and  found 
Thee  on  the  throne  where  once  sat  Lalus  crowned, 
He  took  my  hand  and  prayed  me  earnestly 

^.761-779    OEDIPUS,    KING   OF   THEBES 

To  send  him  to  the  mountain  heights,  to  be 

A  herdsman,  far  from  any  sight  or  call 

Of  Thebes,     And  there  I  sent  him.     'Twas  a  thrall 

Good-hearted,  worthy  a  far  greater  boon. 

Canst  find  him  ?     I  would  see  this  herd,  and  soon. 


'Tis  easy.     But  what  wouldst  thou  with  the  herd  ? 


I  fear  mine  own  voice,  lest  it  spoke  a  word 
Too  much  ;  whereof  this  man  must  tell  me  true. 


The  man  shall  come. — My  lord,  methinks  I  too 
Should  know  what  fear  doth  work  thee  this  despite. 


Thou  shalt.     When  I  am  tossed  to  such  an  height 
Of  dark  foreboding,  woman,  when  my  mind 
Faceth  such  straits  as  these,  where  should  I  find 
A  mightier  love  than  thine  ? 

My  father — thus 
I  tell  thee  the  whole  tale — was  Polybus, 
In  Corinth  King ;  my  mother  Merop6 
Of  Dorian  line.     And  I  was  held  to  be 
The  proudest  in  Corinthia,  till  one  day 
A  thing  befell :  strange  was  it,  but  no  way 
Meet  for  such  wonder  and  such  rage  as  mine. 
A  feast  it  was,  and  some  one  flushed  with  wine 



SOPHOCLES  »▼.  780-807 

Cried  out  at  me  that  I  was  no  true  son 

Of  Polybus.     Oh,  I  was  wroth  !     That  one 

Day  I  kept  silence,  but  the  morrow  morn 

I  sought  my  parents,  told  that  tale  of  scorn 

And    claimed    the   truth ;  and    they   rose    in    their 

And  smote  the  mocker.  .  .  .  Aye,  they  satisfied 
All  my  desire  ;  yet  still  the  cavil  gnawed 
My  heart,  and  still  the  story  crept  abroad. 

At  last  I  rose — my  father  knew  not,  nor 
My  mother — and  went  forth  to  Pytho's  floor 
To  ask.     And  God  in  that  for  which  I  came 
Rejected  me,  but  round  me,  like  a  flame. 
His  voice  flashed  other  answers,  things  of  woe, 
Terror,  and  desolation.     I  must  know 
My  mother's  body  and  beget  thereon 
A  race  no  mortal  eye  durst  look  upon. 
And  spill  in  murder  mine  own  father's  blood. 

I  heard,  and,  hearing,  straight  from  where  I  stood, 
No  landmark  but  the  stars  to  light  my  way. 
Fled,  fled  from  the  dark  south  where  Corinth  lay, 
To  lands  far  off,  where  never  1  might  see 
My  doom  of  scorn  fulfilled.     On  bitterly 
I  strode,  and  reached  the  region  where,  so  saith 
Thy  tale,  that  King  of  Thebes  was  struck  to  death.  .  . . 
Wife,  I  will  tell  thee  true.     As  one  in  daze 
I  walked,  till,  at  the  crossing  of  three  ways, 
A  herald,  like  thy  tale,  and  o'er  his  head 
A  man  behind  strong  horses  charioted 
Met  me.     And  both  would  turn  me  from  the  path. 
He  and  a  thrall  in  front.     And  I  in  wrath 
Smote  him  that  pushed  me — 'twas  a  groom  who  led 
The  horses.     Not  a  word  the  master  said, 

TV.  808-828    OEDIPUS,   KING   OF   THEur.s 

But  watched,  and  as  I  passed  him  on  the  road 

Down  on  my  head  his  iron-branched  goad 

Stabbed.      But,    by    heaven,   he    rued    it !      iii    a 

I  swung  my  staff  and  saw  the  old  man  crash 
Back  from  his  car  in  blood.  ,  .  .  Then  all  of  them 
I  slew. 

Oh,  if  that  man's  unspoken  name 
Had  aught  of  Laius  in  him,  in  God's  eve 
What  man  doth  move  more  miserable  than  I, 
More  dogged  by   the   hate  of  heaven  !     No   man, 

Nor  stranger,  any  more  may  take  me  in  ; 
No  man  may  greet  me  with  a  word,  but  all 
Cast  me  from  out  their  houses.     And  withal 
'Twas  mine  own  self  that  laid  upon  my  life 
These  curses. — And  I  hold  the  dead  man's  wife 
In  these  polluting  arms  that  spilt  his  soul.  .  .  . 
Am  I  a  thing  born  evil  ?     Am  I  foul 
In  every  vein  ?     Thebes  now  doth  banish  me. 
And  never  in  this  exile  must  I  see 
Mine  ancient  folk  of  Corinth,  never  tread 
The  land  that  bore  me  ;  else  my  mother's  bed 
Shall  be  defiled,  and  Polybus,  my  good 
Father,  who  loved  me  well,  be  rolled  in  blood. 
If  one  should  dream  that  such  a  world  began 
In  some  slow  devil's  heart,  that  hated  man, 
Who  should  deny  him  ? — God,  as  thou  art  clean. 
Suffer  not  this,  oh,  suffer  not  this  sin 
To  be,  that  e'er  I  look  on  such  a  day  ! 
Out  of  all  vision  of  mankind  away 
To  darkness  let  me  fall  ere  such  a  fate 
Touch  me,  so  unclean  and  so  desolate  I 

SOPHOCLES  TV.  829-850 


I  tremble  too,  O  King ;  but  till  thou  hear 
From  him  who  saw,  oh,  let  hope  conquer  fear. 


One  shred  of  hope  I  still  have,  and  therefore 
Will  wait  the  herdsman's  coming.     'Tis  no  more. 


He  shall  come.     But  what  further  dost  thou  seek  ? 


This.     If  we  mark  him  close  and  find  him  speak 
As  thou  hast,  then  I  am  lifted  from  my  dread. 


What  mean'st  thou  ?     Was  there  something  that  I 

said  .  .  .  ? 


Thou  said'st  he  spoke  of  robbers,  a  great  band, 
That  slaughtered  Laius'  men.     If  still  he  stand 
To  the  same  tale,  the  guilt  comes  not  my  way. 
One  cannot  be  a  band.     But  if  he  say 
One  lonely  loin-girt  man,  then  visibly 
This  is  God's  finger  pointing  toward  me. 


Be  sure  of  this.    He  told  the  story  so 
When  first  he  came.     All  they  that  heard  him  know, 

VT.  850-870    OEDIPUS,   KING   OF   THEBES 

Not  only  I.     He  cannot  change  again 

Now.     And  if  change  he  should,  O  Lord  of  men, 

No  change  of  his  can  make  the  prophecy 

Of  Lalus'  death  fall  true.     He  was  to  die 

Slain  by  my  son.     So  Loxias  spake.  .  .  .  My  son  ! 

He  slew  no  man,  that  poor  deserted  one 

That  died.  .  .  .  And  I  will  no  more  turn  mine  eyes 

This  way  nor  that  for  all  their  prophecies. 


Woman,  thou  counsellest  well.     Yet  let  it  not 
Escape  thee.     Send  and  have  the  herdsman  brought. 


That  will  I. — Come.     Thou  knowest  I  ne'er  would 

Nor  think  of  aught,  save  thou  wouldst  have  it  so. 

QocASTA  and  Oedipus  go  together  into  the  Palace. 


[They  pray  to  he  free  from  such  great  sins  as  i 
they  have  just  heard  spoken  of  | 

Toward  God's  great  mysteries,  oh,  let  me  move 

Unstained  till  I  die 
In  speech  or  doing  ;  for  the  Laws  thereof 
Are  holy,  walkers  upon  ways  above, 
Born  in  the  far  blue  sky  ; 

Their  father  is  Olympus  uncreate  ; 

No  man  hath  made  nor  told 
Their  being  ;  neither  shall  Oblivion  set 

49  » 

SOPHOCLES  TT.  870-893 

Sleep  on  their  eyes,  for  in  them  lives  a  great 

Spirit  and  grows  not  old.  \^Ant't strophe, 

[They  wonder  if  these  sins  be  all  due  to  pride 
and  if  Creon  has  guilty  ambitions  ; 

'Tis  Pride  that  breeds  the  tyrant ;  drunken  deep 

With  perilous  things  is  she, 
Which  bring  not  peace  :  up,  reeling,  steep  on  steep 
She  climbs,  till  lo,  the  rock-edge,  and  the  leap 

To  that  which  needs  must  be, 

The  land  where  the  strong  foot  is  no  more  strong ! 

Yet  is  there  surely  Pride 
That  saves  a  city  ;  God  preserve  it  long  ! 
I  judge  not.     Only  through  all  maze  of  wrong 

Be  God,  not  man,  my  guide.  [Strophe. 

[Or  if  TiKESiAS  can  really  bi  a  lying  prophet  with 
no  fear  of  God  ;  they  feel  that  all  faith  in 
oracles  and  the  things  of  God  is  shaken. 

Is  there  a  priest  who  moves  amid  the  altars 

Ruthless  in  deed  and  word. 
Fears  not  the  presence  of  his  god,  nor  falters 

Lest  Right  at  last  be  heard  ? 
If  such  there  be,  oh,  let  some  doom  be  given 

Meet  for  his  ill-starred  pride. 
Who  will  not  gain  his  gain  where  Justice  is. 
Who  will  not  hold  his  lips  from  blasphemies, 
Who  hurls  rash  hands  amid  the  things  of  heaven 

From  man's  touch  sanctified. 

In  a  world  where  such  things  be, 
What  spirit  hath  shield  or  lance 


vv.  893-916     OEDIPUS,    KING   OF  THEBES 

To  ward  him  secretly 

From  the  arrow  that  slays  askance  ? 
If  honour  to  such  things  be, 

Why  should  I  dance  my  dance  ? 

I  go  no  more  with  prayers  and  adorations 

To  Earth's  deep  Heart  of  Stone, 
Nor  yet  the  Abantes'  floor,  nor  where  the  nations 

Kneel  at  Olympiads  throne, 
Till  all  this  dark  be  lightened,  for  the  finger 

Of  man  to  touch  and  know. 
O  Thou  that  rulest — if  men  rightly  call 
Thy  name  on  earth — O  Zeus,  thou  Lord  of  all 
And  Strength  undying,  let  not  these  things  linger 

Unknown,  tossed  to  and  fro. 

For  faint  is  the  oracle, 
And  they  thrust  it  aside,  away  ; 

And  no  more  visible 
Apollo  to  save  or  slay  ; 

And  the  things  of  God,  they  fail 
As  mist  on  the  wind  away. 

[JocASTA  comes  out  from  the  Palace  followed 
by  handmaids  bearing  incense  and  flowers. 


Lords  ot  the  land,  the  ways  my  thought  hath  trod 
Lead  me  in  worship  to  these  shrines  of  God 
With  flowers  and  incense  flame.     So  dire  a  storm 
Doth  shake  the  King,  sin,  dread  and  every  form 
Of  grief  the  world  knows.     'Tis  the  wise  man's  way 
To  judge  the  morrow  by  the  yester  day  ; 

SOPHOCLES  »▼.  917-933 

Sleep  ^  ^^  ^°*^  never,  but  gives  eye  and  ear 
J  all  who  speak,  will  they  but  speak  of  fear. 
And  seeing  no  word  of  mine  hath  power  to  heal 
His  torment,  therefore  forth  to  thee  I  steal, 
O  Slayer  of  the  Wolf,  O  Lord  of  Light, 
Apollo  :  thou  art  near  us,  and  of  right 
Dost  hold  us  thine  :  to  thee  in  prayer  I  fall. 

l^She  kneels  at  the  altar  of  Apollo  Lukeios. 
Oh,  show  us  still  some  path  that  is  not  all 
Unclean  ;  for  now  our  captain's  eyes  are  dim 
With  dread,  and  the  whole  ship  must  follow  him. 

[JVhile  she  prays  a  Stranger  has  entered  and 
begins  to  accost  the  Chorus. 


Good  masters,  is  there  one  of  you  could  bring 
My  steps  to  the  house  of  Oedipus,  your  King  ? 
Or,  better,  to  himself  if  that  may  be  ? 


This  is  the  house  and  he  within  ;  and  she 
Thou  seest,  the  mother  of  his  royal  seed. 

[Jocasta  rises^  anxious^  from  her  prayer. 


Being  wife  to  such  a  man,  happy  indeed 
And  ringed  with  happy  faces  may  she  live  ! 


To  one  so  fair  of  speech  may  the  Gods  give 
Like  blessing,  courteous  stranger  ;  'tis  thy  due. 
But  say  what  leads  thee  hither.     Can  we  do 
Thy  wish  in  aught,  or  hast  thou  news  to  bring  ? 


▼▼.934-^7    OEDIPUS,    KING   OF    THEBES 

Good  news,  O  Queen,  for  thee  and  for  the  King. 


|§     What  is  it  ?     And  from  what  prince  comest  thou  ? 

I  come  from  Corinth. — And  my  tale,  I  trow, 
Will  give  thee  joy,  yet  haply  also  pain. 


What  news  can  have  that  twofold  power  ?     Be  plain. 

Tis  spoke  in  Corinth  that  the  gathering 
Of  folk  will  make  thy  lord  our  chosen  King. 


How  ?     Is  old  Polybus  in  power  no  more  ? 

Death  has  a  greater  power.     His  reign  is  o*er. 


What  say*st  thou  ?  Dead  ?  ...  Oedipus'  father  dead  ? 

If  I  speak  false,  let  me  diejn^his  stead. 


I  Ho,  maiden  I     To  our  master  !     Hie  thee  fast 
And  tell  this  tale. 

[The  maiden  goes. 
Where  stand  ye  at  the  last 

SOPHOCLES  w».  948-961 

Ye  oracles  of  God  ?     For  many  a  year 
Oedipus  fled  before  that  man,  in  fear 
To  slay  him.     And  behold  we  find  him  thus 
Slain  by  a  chance  death,  not  by  Oedipus. 

[Oedipus  comes  out  from  the  Palace. 


0  wife,  O  face  I  love  to  look  upon. 

Why  call'st  thou  me  from  where  I  sat  alone  ? 


Give  ear,  and  ponder  from  what  this  man  tells 
How  end  these  proud  priests  and  their  oracles. 

Whence  comes  he  ?     And  what  word  hath  he  for  us  ? 


From  Corinth  ;  bearing  news  that  Polybus 
Thy  father  is  no  more.     He  has  found  his  death. 


How  ? — Stranger,    speak    thyself.       This    that    she 
saith  .  .  . 


Is  sure.     If  that  is  the  first  news  ye  crave, 

1  tell  thee,  Polybus  lieth  in  his  grave. 

Not  murdered?  .  .  .  How?    Some  passing  of  disease - 

A  slight  thing  turns  an  old  life  to  its  peace. 

TV. 962-978    OEDIPUS,    KING   OF   THEBES 

Poor  father  I  .  .  .  *Tis  by  sickness  he  is  dead  ? 

The  growing  years  lay  heavy  on  his  head. 


0  wife,  why  then  should  man  fear  any  more 
The  voice  of  Pytho's  dome,  or  cower  before 
These  birds  that  shriek  above  us  ?     They  foretold 
Me  for  my  father's  murderer  ;  and  behold, 

He  b'es  in  Corinth  dead,  and  here  am  I 

And  never  touched  the  sword.  ...  Or  did  he  die 

In  grief  for  me  who  left  him  ?     In  that  way 

1  may  have  wrought  his  death.  .  .  .  But  come  what 

He  sleepeth  in  his  grave  and  with  him  all 
This  deadly  seercraft,  of  no  worth  at  all. 


Dear  Lord,  long  since  did  I  not  show  thee  clear  .  .  .  ? 

Indeed,  yes.     I  was  warped  by  mine  own  fear. 


Now  thou  wilt  cast  it  from  thee,  and  forget. 

Forget  my  mother  ?  ...  It  is  not  over  yet. 


What  should  man  do  with  fear,  who  hath  but  Chance 
Above  him,  and  no  sight  nor  governance 

SOPHOCLES  TV.  979-993 

.  Of  things  to  be  ?     To  live  as  life  may  run, 
No  fear,  no  fret,  were  wisest  'neath  the  sun. 
And  thou,  fear  not  thy  mother.     Prophets  deem 
A  deed  wrought  that  is  wrought  but  in  a  dream. 
And  he  to  whom  these  things  are  nothing,  best 
Will  bear  his  burden. 


All  thou  counsellest 
Were  good,  save  that  my  mother  liveth  still. 
And,  though  thy  words  be  wise,  for  good  or  ill 
Her  I  still  fear, 


Think  of  thy  father's  tomb  ! 
Like  light  across  our  darkness  it  hath  come. 

Great  light ;  but  while  she  lives  I  fly  from  her. 

What  woman,  Prince,  doth  fill  thee  so  with  fear  ? 

Merop^,  friend,  who  dwelt  with  Polybus. 

What  in  Queen  Merop^  should  fright  thee  thus  ? 

A  voice  of  God,  stranger,  of  dire  import. 

Meet  for  mine  ears  ?     Or  of  some  secret  sort  ? 

TT.994-1009      OEDIPUS,  KING  OF  THEBES 

Nay,  thou  must  hear,  and  Corinth.     Long  ago 
Apollo  spake  a  doom,  that  I  should  know 
My  mother's  flesh,  and  with  mine  own  hand  spill 
My  father's  blood. — 'Tis  that,  and  no*  my  will. 
Hath  kept  me  always  far  from  Corinth.     So  ; 
Life  hath  dealt  kindly  with  me,  yet  men  know 
On  earth  no  comfort  like  a  mother's  fzcc. 

*Tis  that,  hath  kept  thee  exiled  in  this  place  ? 

That,  and  the  fear  too  of  my  father's  blood. 

Then,  surely.  Lord  ...  I  came  but  for  thy  good  .  ,  , 
'Twere  well  if  from  that  fear  I  set  thee  free. 

Ah,  couldst  thou  I     There  were  rich  reward  for  thee. 

To  say  truth,  I  had  hoped  to  lead  thee  home 
Now,  and  myself  to  get  some  good  therefrom. 

Nay ;  where  my  parents  are  I  will  not  go. 

My  son,  'tis  very  clear  thou  dost  not  know 
What  road  thou  goest. 

How  ?     In  God's  name,  say  I 
How  clear  ? 


SOPHOCLES  w.  ioia-1019 

*Tis  this,  keeps  thee  so  long  away 
From  Corinth  ? 

*Tis  the  fear  lest  that  word  break 
One  day  upon  me  true. 


Fear  lest  thou  take 
Defilement  from  the  two  that  gave  thee  birth  ? 

'Tis  that,  old  man,  'tis  that  doth  fill  the  earth 
With  terror. 


Then  thy  terror  all  hath  been 
For  nothing. 

How  ?     Were  not  your  King  and  Queen 
My  parents  ? 

Polybus  was  naught  to  thee 
In  blood. 

How  ?     He,  my  father  I 


That  was  he 

As  much  as  I,  but  no  more. 


Thou  art  naught  | 
*Twas  he  begot  mc. 



Twas  not  I  begot 
Oedipus,  neither  was  it  he. 


What  wild 
Fancy,  then,  made  him  name  me  for  his  child  ? 

Thou  wast  his  child — by  gift.     Long  years  ago 
Mine  own  hand  brought  thee  to  him. 


Coming  so. 
From  a  strange  hand,  he  gave  me  that  great  love  ? 

He  had  no  child,  and  the  desire  thereof 
Held  him. 

And  thou  didst  find  somewhere — or  buy — 
A  child  for  him  ? 

I  found  it  in  a  high 
Glen  of  Kithairon. 

[Movement  of  Jocasta,   who  standi   riveted 
\  with  dread^  unnoticed  by  the  others. 


Yonder  ?     To  what  end 
Wast  travelling  in  these  parts  ? 


I  came  to  tend 
The  flocks  here  on  the  moimtain. 


SOPHOCLES  TV.  1029-1037 


Thou  wast  one 
That  wandered,  tending  sheep  for  hire  ? 


My  son, 
That  day  I  was  the  saviour  of  a  King. 


How  saviour  ?     Was  I  in  some  suffering 
Or  peril  ? 

Thine  own  feet  a  tale  could  speak. 

Ah  me  !     What  ancient  pain  stirs  half  awake 
Within  me  1 

'Twas  a  spike  through  both  thy  feet. 
I  set  thee  free. 

A  strange  scorn  that,  to  greet 
A  babe  new  on  the  earth  ! 


From  that  they  fain 
Must  call  thee  Oedipus,  "  Who-walks-in-pain,** 

Who  called  me  so — father  or  mother  ?     Oh, 
In  God's  name,  speak  ! 


TT.  1038-1046    OEDIPUS,  KING  OF  THEBES 

I  know  not.     He  should  know 
Who  brought  thee. 


So  :  I  was  not  found  by  thee. 
Thou  hadst  me  irom  another  ? 


Aye  ;  to  me 
I       One  of  the  shepherds  gave  the  babe,  to  bear 
Far  off. 


What  shepherd  ?     Know*st  thou  not  ?     Declare 
All  that  thou  knowest. 


By  my  memory,  then, 
I  think  they  called  him  one  of  LaTus*  men. 

Oedipus.    ^ 
That  LaTus  who  was  king  in  Thebjes  of  old  ? 

Stranger,  ,  r^'^'^'^ 

The  same.     My  man  did  herding  in  his  fold.  .  t-^ 

Is  he  yet  living  ?     Can  I  see  his  face  ?        ^-^ — 


[^Turning  to  the  Chorus, 
"  Ye  will  know  that,  being  natives  to  the  place. 


SOPHOCLES  vv.  1047-1062 


How  ? — Is  there  one  of  you  within  my  pale 
Standing,  that  knows  the  shepherd  of  his  tale  ? 
Ye  have  seen  him  on  the  hills  ?     Or  in  this  town  ? 
Speak  I     For  the  hour  is  come  that  all  be  known. 


I  think  'twill  be  the  Peasant  Man,  the  same, 

Thou  hast  sought  long  time  to  see. — His  place  and 

Our  mistress,  if  she  will,  can  tell  most  clear. 

[JocASTA  remains  as  if  she  heard  nothing. 


Thou  hear'st  him,  wife.  The  herd  whose  presence  here 
Wc  craved  for,  is  it  he  this  man  would  say  ? 


He  saith  .  .  .  What  of  it  ?     Ask  not ;  only  pray 
Not  to  remember.  .  .  .  Tales  are  vainly  told. 


Tis  mine  own  birth.     How  can  I,  when  I  hold 
Such  clues  as  these,  refrain  from  knowing  all  ? 


For  God's  love,  no !     Not  if  thou  car'st  at  all 
For  thine  own  life.  .  .  .  My  anguish  is  enough. 

Oedipus  {bitterly). 

Fear  not !  .  .  .  Though  I  be  thrice  of  slavish  stuff 
From  my  third  grand-dam  down,  it  shames  not  thee. 

yv.io63-io7s    OEDIPUS,  KING  OF  THEBES 


Ask  no  more.     I  beseech  thee  .  .  .  Promise  me  I 

To  leave  the  Truth  half-found  ?     'Tis  not  my  mood. 


I  understand  ;  and  tell  thee  what  is  good. 

Thy  good  doth  weary  me. 


O  child  of  woe, 
I  pray  God,  I  pray  God,  thou  never  know  ! 

Oedipus  {turning  from  her). 

Go,  fetch   the  herdsman   straight ! — This  Queen   of 

May  walk  alone  to  boast  her  royal  line. 


[She  twice  draws  in  her  breath  through  her    J 
teethy  as  if  in  some  sharp  pain,  f 

Unhappy  one,  goodbye  !     Goodbye  before 
I  go  :  this  once,  and  never  never  more  ! 

\^She  comes  towards  him  as  though  to  take  a  last 
farewell,  then  stops  suddenly,  turns,  and 
rushes  into  the  Palace. 

King,  what  was  that  ?     She  passed  like  one  who  flies 
In  very  anguish.     Dread  is  o'er  mine  eyes 
Lest  from  this  silence  break  some  storm  of  wrong. 

SOPHOCLES  TV.  1076-1097 


Break  what  break  will !     My  mind  abidcth  strong 

To  know  the  roots,  how  low  soe'er  they  be, 

Which  grew  to  Oedipus.     This  woman,  she 

Is  proud,  methinks,  and  fears  my  birth  and  name 

Will  mar  her  nobleness.     But  I,  no  shame    % 

Can  ever  touch  me.     I  am  Fortune's  child. 

Not  man's ;  her  mother  face  hath  ever  smiled  / 

Above  me,  and  my  brethren  of  the  sky. 

The   changing  Moons,  have  changed  me  low  and 

There  is  my  lineage  true,  which  none  shall  wrest 
From  me  ;  who  then  am  I  to  fear  this  quest  ? 

[They  sing  (?/"Oedipus  as  the  foundling  of  their 
own    Theban    mountainy  Kithairony  and 
doubtless  of  divine  birth. 

If  I,  O  Kithairon,  some  vision  can  borrow 

From  seercraft,  if  still  there  is  wit  in  the  old. 
Long,  long,   through   the  deep-orbed   Moon   of  the 
morrow — 
So  hear  me,  Olympus  I — thy  tale  shall  be  told.         * 
O  mountain  of  Thebes,  a  new  Theban  shall  praise 
One  born  of  thy  bosom,  one  nursed  at  thy  springs ; 
And  the  old  men  shall  dance  to  thy  glory,  and  raise 
To  worship,  O  bearer  of  joy  to  my  kings. 
And  thou,  we  pray. 
Look  down  in  peace,  O  Apollo  ;  1-6,  \-t  I 

»T.io98-iijo     OEDIPUS,  KING  OF  THEBES 

What  Oread  mother,  unaging,  unweeping, 

Did  bear  thee,  O  Babe,  to  the  Crag-walker  Pan  ; 
Or  perchance  to  Apollo  ?     He  loveth  the  leaping 
Of  herds  on  the  rock-ways  unhaunted  of  man. 
Or  was  it  the  lord  of  Cyll^n6,  who  found  thee. 
Or  glad  Dionysus,  whose  home  is  the  height, 
Who  knew  thee  his  own  on  the  mountain,  as  round 
The  White  Brides  of  Helicon  laughed  for  delight  ? 
'Tis  there,  'tis  there. 
The  joy  most  livcth  of  all  his  dance  and  prayer. 


If  I  may  judge,  ye  Elders,  who  have  ne*cr 

Seen  him,  methinks  I  see  the  shepherd  there 

Whom  we  have  sought  so  long.      His  weight  of  years 

Fits  well  with  our  Corinthian  messenger's ; 

And,  more,  I  know  the  men  who  guide  his  way, 

Bondsmen  of  mine  own  house. 

Thou,  friend,  wilt  say 
Most  surely,  who  hast  known  the  man  of  old. 

I  know  him  well.     A  shepherd  of  the  fold 
Of  Laius,  one  he  trusted  more  than  all. 

[The  Shepherd  comes  in,  led  by  two  thralk 
He  is  an  old  man  and  seems  terrified, 

Thou  first,  our  guest  from  Corinth  :  say  withal 
Is  this  the  man  I 

65  1 

SOPHOCLES  ▼^.iiao-nio 

This  is  the  man,  O  King. 


^^  [Addressing  the  Shepherd. 

[     Old  man  !     Look  up,  and  answer  everything 
I  ask  thee. — Thou  wast  Laius'  man  of  old  f 

Born  in  his  house  I  was,  not  bought  with  gold. 

What  kind  of  work,  what  way  of  life,  was  thine  ? 

Most  of  my  days  I  tended  sheep  or  kinc. 

What  was  thy  camping  ground  at  midsummer  ? 

Sometimes  Kithairon,  sometimes  mountains  near. 

Saw'st  ever  there  this  man  thou  segst  now  ? 

There,  Lord  i     What  doing  ? — What  man  meanest 
thou  f 


[Pointing  to  the  Stranger. 
Look  !     Hath  he  ever  crossed  thy  path  before  ? 

T».  1131-1146     OEDIPUS,  KING  OF  THEBES 

I  call  him  not  to  mind,  I  must  think  more. 

Small  wonder  that,  O  King  !     But  I  will  throw 
Light  on  his  memories. — Right  well  I  know 
He  knows  the  time  when,  all  Kithairon  through, 
I  with  one  wandering  herd  and  he  with  two. 
Three  times  we  neighboured  one  another,  clear 
From  spring  to  autumn  stars,  a  good  half-year. 
At  winter's  fell  we  parted ;  he  drove  down 
To  his  master's  fold,  and  I  back  to  mine  own.  .  .  , 
Dost  call  it  back,  friend  ?     Was  it  as  I  say  ? 

It  was.     It  was.  .  .  .  'Tis  all  so  far  away. 

Say  then  :  thou  gavest  me  once,  there  in  the  wild, 
A  babe  to  rear  far  off  as  mine  own  child  ? 


[His  terror  returning. 
What  does  this  mean  ?     To  what  end  askest  thou  ? 


[^Pointing  to  Oedipus. 
That  babe  has  grown,  friend.     'Tis  our  master  now. 

[He  slowly  understands^  then  stands  for  a    ^ 
moment  horror-struck. 
No,  in  the  name  of  death  !  .  .  .  Fool,  hold  thy  peace. 
[He  lifts  his  staff" at  the  Stranger. 

SOPHOCLES  TV.  1147-1157 

Ha,  greybeard  !     Wouldst  thou  strike  him  ? — 'Tis  not 

Offences,  *tis  thine  own  we  need  to  mend. 

Most  gentle  master,  how  do  I  offend  ? 

Whence  came  that  babe  whereof  he  questioneth  ? 

He  doth  not  know  .  .  .  'tis  folly  .  .  .  what  he  saith. 

Thou  wilt  not  speak  for  love ;  but  pain  maybe  .  .  . 

I  am  very  old.     Ye  would  not  torture  mc. 


Back  with  his  arms,  ye  bondmen  I     Hold  him  so. 

[The  thralls  drag  back  the  Shepherd's 
arms^  ready  for  torture. 

Woe's  me  !     What  have  I  done  ?  .  .  .  What  wouldst 
thou  know  ? 

Didst  give  this  man  the  child,  as  he  doth  say  ?   ^     yj^' 


I  did.  .  .  .  Would  God  that  I  had  died  this  day  I 

rT.iis8-ii67    OEDIPUS,  KING  OF  THEBES 

*Forc  heaven,  thou  shalt  yet,  if  thou  speak  not  true. 

*Tis  more  than  death  and  darker,  if  I  do. 

This  dog,  it  seems,  will  keep  us  waiting. 


I  said  at  first  I  gave  it. 


In  what  way 
Came  it  to  thee  ?     Was  it  thine  own  child,  or 
Another's  ? 


Nay,  it  never  crossed  my  door : 


Whose  ?     What  man,  what  hoUsc,  of  these 
About  thee  ? 

In  the  name  of  God  who  sees, 
Ask  me  no  more  ! 


If  once  I  ask  again, 
Thou  diest. 

From  the  folk  of  Laius,  then, 
It  came. 


SOPHOCLES  fT.ii68-ii76 

A  slave,  or  born  of  Lalus*  blood  ? 

There  comes  the  word  I  dread  to  speak,  O  God  I 

And  I  to  hear  :  yet  heard  it  needs  must  be. 

Know  then,  they  said  'twas  Laius*  child.     But  she 
Within,  thy  wife,  best  knows  its  fathering. 


'Twas  she 

:  that 

gave  it  ? 


It  was  she,  O  King. 


And  bade 


,  .  .  what  ? 


Destroy  it. 


Her  own  child  ?  .  •  • 

Cruel ! 


Dark  words  of  God  had  made  her  wild. 


What  words  ? 


yT.ii76-ii92    OEDIPUS,  KING  OF  THEBES 


The  babe  must  slay  his  father ;  so 
*Twas  written. 

Why  didst  thou,  then,  let  him  go 
With  this  old  man  ? 


O  King,  I  pitied  him. 
I  thought  the  man  would  save  him  to  some  dim 
And  distant  land,  beyond  all  fear.  .  .  .  And  he. 
To  worse  than  death,  did  save  him  !  .  .  .  Verily, 
If  thou  art  he  whom  this  man  telleth  of, 
To  sore  affliction  thou  art  born. 


Enough  I 
All,  all,  shall  be  fulfilled.  .  .  .  Oh,  on  these  eyes 
Shed  light  no  more,  ye  everlasting  skies 
That  know  my  sin  !    I  have  sinned  in  birth  and  breath. 
I  have  sinned  with  Woman,    i  have  sinned  with  Death. 
[He  rushes  into  the  Palace.     The  Shepherd 
ii  led  away  by  the  thralls. 


Nothingness,  nothingness, 
Ye  Children  of  Man,  and  less 

I  coimt  you,  waking  or  dreaming  I 
And  none  among  mortals,  none, 
Seeking  to  live,  hath  won 
More  than  to  seem,  and  to  cease 
Again  from  his  seeming. 

SOPHOCLES  vT.  1193-W12 

While  ever  before  mine  eyes 
One  fate,  one  ensample,  lies — 
Thine,  thine,  O  Oedipus,  sore 

Of  God  oppressed — 
What  thing  that  is  human  more 

Dare  I  call  blessW  ? 

Straight  his  archery  flew 
To  the  heart  of  living  ;  he  knew 

Joy  and  the  fulness  of  power, 
O  Zeus,  when  the  riddling  breath 
Was  stayed  and  the  Maid  of  Death 
Slain,  and  we  saw  him  through 

The  death-cloud,  a  tower  I 

For  that  he  was  called  my  king  ; 
Yea,  every  precious  thing 
Wherewith  men  are  honoured,  down 

We  cast  before  him, 
And  great  Thebes  brought  her  crown 
And  kneeled  to  adore  him. 

But    now,  what   man's   story  is   such  bitterness  to 
speak  ? 
What  life  hath  Delusion  so  visited,  and  Pain, 
And  swiftness  of  Disaster  ? 
O  great  King,  our  master, 
How  oped  the  one  haven  to  the  slayer  and  the 
slain  ? 
And  the  furrows  of  thy  father,  did  they  turn  not  nor 
Did   they  bear  so  long  silent  thy  casting  of  the 
grain  ? 


7y.i2i3-i235    OEDIPUS,  KING  OF  THEBES 

*Tis  Time,  Time,  desirelcss,  hath  shown  thee  what 
thou  art ; 
The  long  monstrous  mating,  it  is  judged  and  all  its 

O  child  of  him  that  sleepeth. 
Thy  land  weepeth,  weepeth. 
Unfathered.  .   .  .  Would  God,  I  had  never  seen 
thy  face  ! 
From  thee  in  great  peril  fell  peace  upon  my  heart. 
In  thee  mine  eye  clouded  and  the  dark  is  come 

[A  Messenger  rushes  out  from  the  Palace. 

O  ye  above  this  land  in  honour  old 
Exalted,  what  a  tale  shall  ye  be  told. 
What  sights  shall  see,  and  tears  of  horror  shed, 
If  still  your  hearts  be  true  to  them  that  led 
Your  sires  !     There  runs  no  river,  well  I  ween, 
Not  Phasis  nor  great  Ister,  shall  wash  clean 
This  house  of  all  within  that  hideth — nay, 
Nor  all  that  creepeth  forth  to  front  the  day, 
Of  purposed  horror.     And  in  misery 
That  woundeth  most  which  men  have  willed  to  be. 

No  lack  there  was  in  what  we  knew  before 
Of  food  for  heaviness.     What  bring'st  thou  more  ? 


One  thing  I  bring  thee  first.  .  .  .  'Tis  quickly  said. 
Jocasta,  our  anointed  queen,  is  dead. 

SOPHOCLES  TV.  1236-1260 

Unhappy  woman  !     How  came  death  to  her  ? 

By  her  own  hand.  .  .  .  Oh,  of  what  passed  in  there 
Ye  have  been  spared  the  worst.     Ye  cannot  see, 
Howbeit,  with  that  which  still  is  left  in  me 
Of  mind  and  memory,  ye  shall  hear  her  fate. 

Like  one  entranced  with  passion,  through  the  gate 
She  passed,  the  white  hands  flashing  o'er  her  head, 
Like  blades  that  tear,  and  fled,  unswerving  fled, 
Toward  her  old  bridal  room,  and  disappeared 
And  the  doors  crashed  behind  her.     But  we  heard 
Her  voice  within,  crying  to  him  of  old. 
Her  Laius,  long  dead  ;  and  things  untold 
Of  the  old  kiss  unforgotten,  that  should  bring 
The  lover's  death  and  leave  the  loved  a  thing 
\       Of  horror,  yea,  a  field  beneath  the  plough 
y  For  sire  and  son  :  then  wailing  bitter-low 

v3  Across  that  bed  of  births  unreconciled, 

V     ,(/          Husband  from  husband  born  and  child  from  child. 
V  /         And,  after  that,  I  know  not  how  her  death 

Found  her.     For  sudden,  with  a  roar  of  wrath, 
Burst  Oedipus  upon  us.     Then,  I  ween, 
We  marked  no  more  what  passion  held  the  Queen, 
But  him,  as  in  the  fury  of  his  stride, 
"  A  sword  I  A  sword  1  And  show  me  here,"  he  cried, 
"  That  wife,  no  wife,  that  field  of  bloodstained  earth 
Where  husband,  father,  sin  on  sin,  had  birth, 
Polluted  generations  I  "     While  he  thus 
Raged  on,  some  god — for  sure  'twas  none  of  us — 
Showed  where  she  was  ;  and  with  a  shout  away, 
As  though  some  hand  had  pointed  to  the  prey, 


He  dashed  him  on  the  chamber  door.     The  straight 
Door-bar  of  oak,  it  bent  beneath  his  weight. 
Shook  from  its  sockets  free,  and  in  he  burst 
To  the  dark  chamber. 

There  we  saw  her  first 
Hanged,  swinging  from  a  noose,  like  a  dead  bird. 
He  fell  back  when  he  saw  her.     Then  we  heard 
A  miserable  groan,  and  straight  he  found 
And  loosed  the  strangling  knot,  and  on  the  ground 
Laid  her. — Ah,  then  the  sight  of  horror  came  I 
The  pin  of  gold,  broad-beaten  like  a  flame. 
He  tore  from  off  her  breast,  and,  left  and  right, 
Down  on  the  shuddering  orbits  of  his  sight 
Dashed  it :     **  Out  !    Out !    Yc  never  more  shall  see 
Me  nor  the  anguish  nor  the  sins  of  me. 
Yc  looked  on  lives  whose  like  earth  never  bore, 
Ye  knew  not  those  my  spirit  thirsted  for  : 
Therefore  be  dark  for  ever  !  " 

Like  a  song 
His  voice  rose,  and  again,  again,  the  strong 
And  stabbing  hand  fell,  and  the  massacred 
And  bleeding  eyeballs  streamed  upon  his  beard, 
Wild  rain,  and  gouts  of  hail  amid  the  rain. 

Behold  affliction,  yea,  afflictions  twain 
From  man  and  woman  broken,  now  made  one 
In  downfall.     All  the  riches  yester  sun 
Saw  in  this  house  were  rich  in  verity. 
What  call  ye  now  our  riches  ?     Agony, 
Delusion,  Death,  Shame,  all  that  eye  or  ear 
Hath  ever  dreamed  of  misery,  is  here. 


And  now  how  fares  he  ?     Doth  the  storm  abate  ? 

SOPHOCLES  7T.1287-1308 

He  shouts  for  one  to  open  wide  the  gate 
And  lead  him  forth,  and  to  all  Thebes  display 
His  father's  murderer,  his  mother's.  .  .  .  Nay, 
Such  words  I  will  not  speak.     And  his  intent 
Is  set,  to  cast  himself  in  banishment 
Out  to  the  wild,  not  walk  'mid  human  breed 
Bearing  the  curse  he  bears.     Yet  sore  his  need 
Of  strength  and  of  some  guiding  hand.     For  sure 
He  hath  more  burden  now  than  man  may  endure. 

But  see,  the  gates  fall  back,  and  that  appears 
Which  he  who  loathes  shall  pity — yea,  with  tears. 

[Oedipus  is  led  iriy  blinded  and  bleeding.     The 

Old  Men  bow  down  and  hide  their  faces  ; 

some  of  them  weep. 

Oh,  terrible  !     Oh,  sight  of  all 

This  life  hath  crossed,  most  terrible  ! 

Thou  man  more  wronged  than  tongue  can  tell. 
What  madness  took  thee  ?     Do  there  crawl 

Live  Things  of  Evil  from  the  deep 

To  leap  on  man  ?     Oh,  what  a  leap 
Was  His  that  flung  thee  to  thy  fall  I 

O  fallen,  fallen  in  ghastly  case, 

I  dare  not  raise  mine  eyes  to  thee  ; 

Fain  would  I  look  and  ask  and  see, 
But  shudder  sickened  from  thy  face. 

Oh,  pain  ;  pain  and  woe  ! 
Whither  f     Whither  ? 

TT.1308-1328    OEDIPUS,  KING  OF  THEBES 

They  lead  me  and  I  go  ; 

And  my  voice  drifts  on  the  air 

Far  away. 
Where,  Thing  of  Evil,  where 
Endeth  thy  leaping  hither  ? 

In  fearful  ends,  which  none  may  hear  nor  say, 

Cloud  of  the  dark,  mine  own  [Strophe, 

For  ever,  horrible. 

Stealing,  stealing,  silent,  unconquerable, 
Cloud  that  no  wind,  no  summer  can  dispel  I 
Again,  again  I  groan. 
As  through  my  heart  together  crawl  the  strong 
Stabs  of  this  pain  and  memories  of  old  wrong. 

Yea,  twofold  hosts  of  torment  hast  thou  there, 
The  stain  to  think  on  and  the  pain  to  bear. 

O  Friend,  thou  mine  own  [Antistrophe, 

Still  faithful,  minister 
Steadfast  abiding  alone  of  them  that  were. 
Dost  bear  with  me  and  give  the  blind  man 
care  ? 
Ah  me  !     Not  all  unknown 
Nor  hid  thou  art.     Deep  in  this  dark  a  call 
Comes  and  I  know  thy  voice  in  spite  of  alL 

O  fearful  sufferer,  and  could'st  thou  kill 
Thy  living  orbs  ?     What  God  made  blind  thy  wiB  ? 
77  V 

SOPHOCLES  »T.  1329-1351 

'Tis  Apollo  ;  all  is  Apollo,  [Strophe 

O  ye  that  love  me,  *tis  he  long  time  hath  planned 
These  things  upon  me  evilly,  evilly, 
Dark  things  and  full  of  blood. 
I  knew  not ;  I  did  but  follow 
His  way  ;  but  mine  the  hand 
And  mine  the  anguish.  What  were  mine  eyes  to  me 
When  naught  to  be  seen  was  good  i 

'Tis  even  so  ;  and  Truth  doth  speak  in  thee. 


To  see,  to  endure,  to  hear  words  kindly  spoken, 
Should  I  have  joy  in  such  ? 
Out,  if  ye  love  your  breath. 
Cast  me  swift  unto  solitude,  unbroken 
By  word  or  touch. 

Am  I  not  charged  with  death. 

Most  charged  and  filled  to  the  brim 
With  curses  ?     And  what  man  saith 
God  hath  so  hated  him  ? 


Thy  bitter  will,  thy  hard  calamity, 

Would  I  had  never  known  nor  looked  on  thee  ! 

My  curse,  my  curse  upon  him,  \^Antistrophe. 

That  man  whom  pity  held  in  the  wilderness. 
Who  saved  the  feet  alive  from  the  blood-fetter 
And  loosed  the  barb  thereof  I 

»».i3Si-i377     OEDIPUS,  KING  OF  THEBES 

That  babe — what  grace  was  done  him, 
Had  he  died  shelterless. 

He  had  not  laid  on  himself  this  grief  to  bear, 
And  all  who  gave  him  love. 

I,  too,  O  Friend,  I  had  been  happier. 

Found  not  the  way  to  his  father's  blood,  nor  shaken 
The  world's  scorn  on  his  mother, 
The  child  and  the  groom  withal ; 
But  now,  of  murderers  born,  of  God  forsaken, 
Mine  own  sons'  brother  ; 

All  this,  and  if  aught  can  fall 

Upon  man  more  perilous 
And  elder  in  sin,  lo,  all 
Is  the  portion  of  Oedipus. 

How  shall  I  hold  this  counsel  of  thy  mind 
True  ?     Thou  wert  better  dead  than  living  blind. 

That  this  deed  is  not  well  and  wisely  wrought 
Thou  shalt  not  show  me  ;  therefore  school  me  not. 
Think,  with  what  eyes  hereafter  in  the  place 
Of  shadows  could  I  see  my  father's  face. 
Or  my  poor  mother's  ?     Both  of  whom  this  hand 
Hath  wronged  too  deep  for  man  to  understand. 
Or  children — born  as  mine  were  born,  to  see 
Their  shapes  should   bring   me  joy  ?     Great    God  1 
To  mc 


SOPHOCLES  VT.  1378-1403 

There  is  no  joy  in  city  nor  in  tower 

Nor  temple,  from  all  whom,  in  this  mine  hour, 

I  that  was  chief  in  Thebes  alone,  and  ate 

The  King's  bread,  I  have  made  me  separate 

For  ever.     Mine  own  lips  have  bid  the  land 

Cast  from  it  one  so  evil,  one  whose  hand 

To  sin  was  dedicate,  whom  God  hath  shown 

Birth-branded  .  .  .  and  my  blood  the  dead  King's  own  f 

All  this  myself  have  proved.     And  can  I  then 

Look  with  straight  eyes  into  the  eyes  of  men  ? 

I  trow  not.     Nay,  if  any  stop  there  were 

To  dam  this  fount  that  welleth  in  mine  ear 

For  hearing,  I  had  never  blenched  nor  stayed 

Till  this  vile  shell  were  all  one  dungeon  made, 

Dark,  without  sound.     'Tis  thus  the  mind  would  fain 

Find  peace,  self-prisoned  from  a  world  of  pain. 

O  wild  Kithairon,  why  was  it  thy  will 
To  save  me  ?     Why  not  take  me  quick  and  kill, 
Kill,  before  ever  I  could  make  men  know 
The  thing  I  am,  the  thing  from  which  I  grow  ? 
Thou  dead  King,  Polybus,  thou  city  wall 
Of  Corinth,  thou  old  castle  I  did  call 
My  father's,  what  a  life  did  ye  begin. 
What  splendour  rotted  by  the  worm  within, 
When  ye  bred  me  !     O  Crossing  of  the  Roads, 
O  secret  glen  and  dusk  of  crowding  woods, 
O  narrow  footpath  creeping  to  the  brink 
Where  meet  the  Three  !     I  gave  you  blood  to  drink. 
Do  ye  remember  ?     'Twas  my  life-blood,  hot 
From  mine  own  father's  heart.     Have  ye  forgot 
What  deed  I  did  among  you,  and  what  new 
And  direr  deed  I  fled  from  you  to  do  ? 
O  flesh,  horror  of  flesh  !  .  .  . 


TT.i4«^-i43»     OEDIPUS,  KING  OF  THEBES 

But  what  is  shame 
To  do  should  not  be  spoken.     In  God's  name. 
Take  me  somewhere  far  off  and  cover  me 
From  sight,  or  slay,  or  cast  me  to  the  sea 
Where  never  eye  may  see  me  any  more. 

What  ?     Do  ye  fear  to  touch  a  man  so  sore 
Stricken  ?     Nay,  tremble  not.     My  misery 
Is  mine,  and  shall  be  borne  by  none  but  me. 

Lo,  yonder  comes  for  answer  to  thy  prayer 
Creon,  to  do  and  to  decree.     The  care 
Of  all  our  land  is  his,  now  thou  art  weak. 

Alas,  what  word  to  Creon  can  I  speak. 
How  make  him  trust  me  more  ?      He  hath  seen  of 

So  vile  a  heart  in  me,  so  full  of  hate. 

Enter  Creon. 

Not  to  make  laughter,  Oedipus,  nor  cast 
Against  thee  any  evil  of  the  past 
I  seek  thee,  but  .   .  .  Ah  God  1  yc  ministers, 
Have  ye  no  hearts  ?     Or  if  for  man  there  stirs 
No  pity  in  you,  fear  at  least  to  call 
Stain  on  our  Lord  the  Sun,  who  feedeth  all ; 
Nor  show  in  nakedness  a  horror  such 
As  this,  which  never  mother  Earth  may  touch. 
Nor  God's  clean  rain  nor  sunlight.     Quick  within  I 
Guide  him. — The  ills  that  in  a  house  have  been 
They  of  the  bouse  alone  should  know  or  hear. 
8i  w 

SOPHOCLES  VT.  1432-1447 

In  God's  name,  since  thou  hast  undone  the  fear 
Within  me,  coming  thus,  all  nobleness, 
To  one  so  vile,  grant  me  one  only  grace. 
For  thy  sake  more  I  crave  it  than  mine  own. 

Let  me  first  hear  what  grace  thou  wouldst  be  shown. 

Cast  me  from  Thebes  .  ,  .   now,  quick  .   .  .   where 

none  may  see 
My  visage  more,  nor  mingle  words  with  me. 

That  had  I  done,  for  sure,  save  that  I  still 
Tremble,  and  fain  would  ask  Apollo's  will. 

His  will  was  clear  enough,  to  stamp  the  unclean 
Thing  out,  the  bloody  hand,  the  heart  of  sin, 

'Twas  thus  he  seemed  to  speak  ;  but  in  this  sore 
Strait  we  must  needs  learn  surer  than  before. 

Thou  needs  must  trouble  God  for  one  so  low  ? 

Surely  ;  thyself  will  trust  his  answer  now. 

I  charge  thee  more  .  .  .  and,  if  thou  fail,  my  sin 
Shall  cleave  to  thee.  .  .  .  For  her  who  lies  within, 



Make  as  thou  wilt  her  burial.     Tis  thy  task 
To  tend  thine  own.     But  me  :  let  no  man  ask 
This  ancient  city  of  my  sires  to  give 
Harbour  in  life  to  me.     Set  me  to  live 
On  the  wild  hills  and  leave  my  name  to  those 
Deeps  of  Kithairon  which  my  fether  chose, 
And  mother,  for  my  vast  and  living  tomb. 
As  they,  my  murderers,  willed  it,  let  my  doom 
Find  me.     For  this  my  very  heart  doth  know, 
No  sickness  now,  nor  any  mortal  blow, 
Shall  slay  this  body.     Never  had  my  breath 
Been  thus  kept  burning  in  the  midst  of  death, 
Save  for  some  frightful  end.     So,  let  my  way 
Go  where  it  listeth. 

But  my  children — Nay, 
Crcon,  my  sons  will  ask  thee  for  no  care. 
Men  are  they,  and  can  find  them  everywhere 
What  life  needs.     But  my  two  poor  desolate 
Maidens.  .  .  .  There  was  no  table  ever  set 
Apart  for  them,  but  whatso  royal  fare 
I  tasted,  they  were  with  me  and  had  share 
In  all.  .  .  .  Creon,  I  pray,  forget  them  not. 
And  if  it  may  be,  go,  bid  them  be  brought, 

[Creon  goes  and  presently  returns  with  the 

two   princesses,     Oedipus   thinks  he    is 

there  all  the  time. 
That  I  may  touch  their  feces,  and  so  weep.  .  .  . 
Go,  Prince.     Go,  noble  heart !  .  .  . 
If  I  might  touch  them,  I  should  seem  to  keep 
And    not   to    have    lost    them,    now    mine   eyes   are 

gone.  .  .  . 
What  say  I  ? 

In  God's  name,  can  it  be  I  hear  mine  own 

SOPHOCLES  T».  1473-150S 

Beloved  ones  sobbing  ?     Creon  of  his  grace 
Hath  brought  my  two,  my  dearest,  to  this  place. 
Is  it  true  ? 


'Tis  true.     I  brought  them,  for  in  them  1  know 
Thy  joy  is,  the  same  now  as  long  ago. 

God  bless  thee,  and  in  this  hard  journey  give 
Some  better  guide  than  mine  to  help  thee  live. 

Children  !     Where  are  ye  ?    Hither  ;  come  to  these 
lArms  of  your  .  .  .  brother,  whose  wild  offices 
Have  brought  much  darkness  on  the  once  bright  eyes 
Of  him  who  grew  your  garden  ;  who,  nowise 
Seeing  nor  understanding,  digged  a  ground 
The  world  shall  shudder  at.     Children,  my  wound 
Is  yours  too,  and  I  cannot  meet  your  gaze 
Now,  as  I  think  me  what  remaining  days 
Of  bitter  living  the  world  hath  for  you. 
What  dance  of  damsels  shall  ye  gather  to, 
What  feast  of  Thebes,  but  quick  ye  shall  turn  home, 
All  tears,  or  ere  the  feast  or  dancers  come  ? 
And,  children,  when  ye  reach  the  years  of  love. 
Who  shall  dare  wed  you,  whose  heart  rise  above 
The  peril,  to  take  on  him  all  the  shame 
That  cleaves  to  my  name  and  my  children's  name  ? 
God  knows,  it  is  enough  !  .  .  . 
My  flowers,  ye  needs  must  die,  waste  things,  bereft 
And  fruitless. 

Creon,  thou  alone  art  left 
Their  father  now,  since  both  of  us  are  gone 
Who  cared  for  them.     Oh,  leave  them  not  alone 

rT.i5os-i5i8    OEDIPUS,  KING  OF  THEBES 

To  wander  masterlcss,  these  thine  own  kin, 
And  beggared.     Neither  think  of  them  such  sin 
As  ye  all  know  in  me,  but  let  their  fate 
Touch  thee.     So  young  they  are,  so  desolate — 
Of  all  save  thee.     True  man,  give  me  thine  hand. 
And  promise. 

[Oedipus  and  Creon  clasp  hands. 
If  your  age  could  understand, 
Children,  full  many  counsels  I  could  give. 
But  now  I  leave  this  one  word  :  Pray  to  live 
As  life  may  suifer  you,  and  find  a  road 
To  travel  easier  than  your  father  trod. 


Enough  thy  heart  hath  poured  its  tears ;  now  back 
into  thine  house  repair. 

I  dread  the  house,  yet  go  I  must. 

Fair  season  maketh  all  things  fair. 

One  oath  then  give  me,  and  I  go. 

Name  it,  and  I  will  answer  thee. 

To  cast  me  from  this  land. 

SOPHOCLES  w.  ist9-i5«3 

A  gift  not  mine  but  God's  thou  askest  me. 

I  am  a  thing  of  God  abhorred. 

The  more,  then,  will  he  grant  thy  prayer.       | 

Thou  givest  thine  oath  ? 

I  see  no  light ;  and,  seeing  not,  I  may  not  swear. 

Then  take  me  hence.     I  care  not. 

Go  in  peace,  and  give  these  children  o'er. 


Ah  no  !     Take  not  away  my  daughters  ! 

[They  are  taken  firem  him, 


Seek  not  to  be  master  more. 
Did  not  thy  masteries  of  old  forsake  thee  when  the 
end  was  near  ? 


»T.isa4-i53o     OEDIPUS,  KING  OF  THEBES 


Vc  citizens  of  Thebes,    behold  ;    *tis   Oedipus   that 

passeth  here, 
Who  read  the  riddle-word  of  Death,  and  mightiest 

stood  of  mortal  men. 
And  Fortune  loved  him,  and  the  folk  that  saw  him 

turned  and  looked  again. 
Lo,   he  is  fallen,  and  around   great  storms  and   the 

outreach  ing  sea  ! 
Therefore,  O  Man,  beware,  and  look  toward  the  end 

of  things  that  be, 
The  last  of  sights,  the. last  of  days  ;  and  no  man's  life 

account  as  gain 
Ere  the  full  tale  be  finished  and  the  darkness  find  him 

without  pain. 

[Oedipus  is  led  into  the  home  and  the  doors 
clo%e  on  him~ 



P.  4,  1.  21,  Dry  Ash  of  Ism^nus.] — Divination  by 
burnt  offerings  was  practised  at  an  altar  of  Apollo  by 
the  river  Ismenus  in  Thebes. 

Observe  how  many  traits  Oedipus  retains  of  the 
primitive  king,  who  was  at  once  chief  and  medicine- 
man and  god.  The  Priest  thinks  it  necessary  to  state 
explicitly  that  he  does  not  regard  Oedipus  as  a  god, 
but  he  is  clearly  not  quite  like  other  men.  And  it 
seems  as  if  Oedipus  himself  realised  in  this  scene  that 
the  oracle  from  Delphi  might  well  demand  the  king's 
life.  Cf.  p.  6,  "  what  deed  of  mine,  what  bitter  task, 
May  save  my  city  " ;  p.  7,  "  any  fear  for  mine  own 
death."  This  thought,  present  probably  in  more  minds 
than  his,  greatly  increases  the  tension  of  the  scene. 
Cf.  Anthropology  and  the  Classics^  pp.  74-79. 

P.  7,  1.  87,  Message  of  joy.] — Creon  says  this  for 
the  sake  of  the  omen.  The  first  words  uttered  at 
such  a  crisis  would  be  ominous  and  tend  to  fulfil 

Pp.  13-16,  11.  216-275.  The  long  cursing  speech 
of  Oedipus.] — Observe  that  this  speech  is  broken  into 
several  divisions,  Oedipus  at  each  point  expecting 
an  answer  and  receiving  none.  Thus  it  is  not  mere 
declamation  ;  it  involves  action  and  reaction  between 



a  speaker  and  a  crowd. — Every  reader  will  notice 
how  full  it  is  of  ^tragic  irony."  Almost  every  para- 
graph carries  with  it  some  sinister  meaning  of  which 
the  speaker  is  unconscious.  Cf.  such  phrases  as  "  if 
he  tread  my  hearth,"  "  had  but  his  issue  been  more 
fortunate,"  "as  I  would  for  mine  own  father,"  and 
of  course  the  whole  situation. 

P.  25, 1.  437,  Who  were  they  ?] — This  momentary 
doubt  of  Oedipus,  who  of  course  regarded  himself 
as  the  son  of  Polybus,  King  of  Corinth,  is  explained 
later  (p.  46,  1.  780). 

Pp.  29  ff.  The  Creon  scene.] — The  only  part  of 
the  play  which  could  possibly  be  said  to  flag.  Creon's 
defence,  p.  34,  "  from  probabilities,"  as  the  rhetoricians 
would  have  called  it,  seems  less  interesting  to  us  than 
it  probably  did  to  the  poet's  contemporaries.  It  is 
remarkably  like  Hippolytus's  defence  (pp.  52  f.  of  my 
translation),  and  probably  one  was  suggested  by  the 
other.  Wc  cannot  be  sure  which  was  the  earlier 

The  scene  serves  at  least  to  quicken  the  pace  of  , 
the  drama,  to  bring  out  the  impetuous  and  somewhat  / 
tyrannical  nature  of  Oedipus,  and  to  prepare  the  ' 
magnificent  entrance  of  Jocasta. 

P.  36,  1.  630,  Thebes  is  my  country.] — It  must 
be  remembered  that  to  the  Chorus  Creon  is  a  real 
Theban,  Oedipus  a  stranger  from  Corinth. 

P.  41,  Conversation  of  Oedipus   and    Jocasta,] — 
The  technique  of  this  wonderful  scene,  an  intimate 
self-revealing  conversation  between  husband  and  wife 
about  the  past,  forming   the  pivot  of  the  play,   will  jl 
remind  a  modern  rradcir  ofllbscn, 

P.   42,   1.   718.] — Observe    that   Jocasu    docs   not 


yi  tell  the  whole  truth.  It  was  she  herself  who  gave 
the  child  to  be  killed  (p.  70,  1.  11 73). 

P.  42,  1.  730,  Crossing  of  Three  Ways.] — Cross 
roads  always  had  dark  associations.  This  particular 
spot  was  well  known  to  tradition  and  is  still  pointed 
out.  "A  bare  isolated  hillock  of  grey  stone  stands 
at  the  point  where  our  road  from  Daulia  meets  the 
road  to  Delphi  and  a  third  road  that  stretches  to 
the  south.  .  .  .  The  road  runs  up  a  frowning  pass 
between  Parnassus  on  the  right  hand  and  the  spurs 
of  the  Helicon  range  on  the  left.  Away  to  the  south 
a  wild  and  desolate  valley  opens,  running  up  among 
the  waste  places  of  Helicon,  a  scene  of  inexpressible 
grandeur  and  desolation"  (Jebb,  abridged). 

P.  44,  1.  754,  Who  could  bring,  &c.] — Oedipus  of 
course  thought  he  had  killed  them  all.  See  his  next 

P.  51.] — Observe  the  tragic  effect  of  this  prayer. 
Apollo  means  to  destroy  Jocasta,  not  to  save  her  ; 
her  prayer  is  broken  across  by  the  entry  of  the 
Corinthian  Stranger,  which  seems  like  a  deliverance 
but  is  really  a  link  in  the  chain  of  destruction. 
There  is  a  very  similar  effect  in  Sophocles'  Electro^ 
636-659,  Clytaemnestra's  prayer  ;  compare  also  the 
prayers  to  Cypris  in  Euripides'  Hippolytus. 

P.  51,  1.  899.] — Abae  was  an  ancient  oracular 
shrine  in  Boeotia ;  Olympia  in  Elis  was  the  seat  of 
the  Olympian  Games  and  of  a  great  Temple  of  Zeus. 

P.  52,  1.  918,  O  Slayer  of  the  Wolf,  O  Lord  of 
Light.] — The  names  Lykeios,  Lykios,  &c.,  seem  to 
have  two  roots,  one  meaning  "Wolf"  and  the  other 
"  Light." 

P.  56,  1.  987,  Thy  father's  tomb  Like  light  across 


our  darkness.] — This  ghastly  line  does  not  show  hard- 
ness of  heart,  it  shows  only  the  terrible  position  in 
which  Oedipus  and  Jocasta  are.  Naturally  Oedipus 
would  give  thanks  if  his  father  was  dead.  Compare 
his  question  above,  p.  54, 1.  960,  "  Not  murdered  ? " — 
He  cannot  get  the  thought  of  the  fated  murder  out 
of  his  mind. 

P.  57, 1.  994.] — Why  does  Oedipus  tell  the  Corin- 
thian this  oracle,  which  he  has  kept  a  secret  even 
from  his  wife  till  to-day  ? — Perhaps  because,  if  there 
is  any  thought  of  his  going  back  to  Corinth,  his  long 
voluntary  exile  must  be  explained.  Perhaps,  too,  the 
secret  possesses  his  mind  so  overpoweringly  that  it 
can  hardly  help  coming  out. 

Pp.  57,  58,  11.  1 000- 1 020.] — It  is  natural  that  the 

I  Corinthian  hesitates  before  telling  a  king  that  he  is 
really  not  of  royal  birth. 

Pp.  64,  65,  11.  1086-1109.] — This  joyous  Chorus 
strikes  a  curious  note.  Of  course  it  forms  a  good 
contrast  with  what  succeeds,  but  how  can  the  Elders 
take  such  a  serenely  happy  view  of  the  discovery  that 
Oedipus  is  a  foundling  just  after  they  have  been  alarmed 
at  the  exit  of  Jocasta  ?  It  seems  as  if  the  last 
triumphant  speech  of  Oedipus,  "  fey "  and  almost 
touched  with  megalomania  as  it  was,  had  carried  the 
feeling  of  the  Chorus  with  it. 

P.  66, 1.  1 1 22.] — Is  there  any  part  in  any  tragedy  so 
short  and  yet  so  effective  as  that  of  this  Shepherd  ? 

P.  75,  1.  1264,  Like  a  dead  bird.] — The  curious 
word,  €fnreirXrjyn€vr]Vj  seems  to  be  taken  from  Odyssey 
xxii.  469,  where  it  is  applied  to  birds  caught  in  a  snare. 
As  to  the  motives  of  Oedipus,  his  first  blind  instinct 
was  to  kill  Jocasta  as  a  thing  that  polluted  the 


earth  ;  when  he  saw  her  already  dead,  a  revulsion 

P.  76,  11.  1305  fF.] — Observe  how  a  climax  of 
physical  horror  is  immediately  veiled  and  made  beauti- 
ful by  lyrical  poetry.  Sophocles  does  not,  however, 
carry  this  plan  of  simply  flooding  the  scene  with 
sudden  beauty  nearly  so  far  as  Euripides  does.  Sec 
Hipp.^  p.  39  ;  Trojan  JVomen^  P«  5l« 

P.  83,  11.  1450  fF.,  Set  me  to  live  on  the  wild  hills.] 
— These  lines  serve  to  explain  the  conception,  exist- 
ing in  the  poet's  own  time,  of  Oedipus  as  si  daemon 
or  ghost  haunting  Mount  Kithairon. 

P.  86,  1.  1520,  Creon.] — Amid  all  Creon's  whole- 
hearted forgiveness  of  Oedipus  and  his  ready  kindness 
there  are  one  or  two  lines  of  his  which  strike  a 
modern  reader  as  tactless  if  not  harsh.  Yet  I  do  not 
think  that  Sophocles  meant  to  produce  that  effect. 
At  the  present  day  it  is  not  in  the  best  manners  to 
moralise  over  a  man  who  is  down,  any  more  than 
it  is  the  part  of  a  comforter  to  expound  and  insist 
upon  his  friend's  misfortunes.  But  it  looks  as  if 
ancient  manners  expected,  and  even  demanded,  both. 
Cf.  the  attitude  of  Theseus  to  Adrastus  in  Eur., 


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